The last time I shaved my hair was 2 decades ago during the National Service days. Believing that a shaved head would add additional years to my physical appearance and attracting unsolicited giggles and glares from strangers and friends, the thought of being spotted with the hairstyle is unimaginable and mind boggling. I told myself that I could even donate more or sign up as an event volunteer if I wanted to do more.
However, when I thought about the little fighters who are bravely battling the biggest fight of their lives, I repeatedly asked myself "Does it (being bald) really matter?" Of course, it matters! But my adventurous and civic mindedness nature spoke louder and I was convinced after a few rounds of self-talk.
Cancer is no stranger to me after having a sad brush with the disease on 2 occasions. Stomach cancer took away my grandfather when I was 21. Being the caregiver during our childhood days, we were affectionately close to him. Hence, it was a painful ordeal to see him slowly withering to a bag of bones in the last few months of his final journey. In 2016, my ex-neighbour lost a 2-year battle with lung cancer. He was only 30 year-old then and left behind a wife and a young child. Cancer has no respect for race, age or ethnicity. It can happen to any living being and the devastating effects on physical, social and mental well-being are no less to a child than to an adult.
In its 16th year running, the Hair for Hope is Children’s Cancer Foundation’s signature fundraising event. Beside garnering financial support to provide a suite of critical services for its beneficiaries (children with cancers and their families), the foundation believes the symbolic gesture of shaving bald could help to create awareness of childhood cancer in Singapore, build a community of support for children with cancer and their families and can exemplify the point that it is normal to be bald. With 5,507 shavees and $3.4 million raised in 2017 as compared to 9 shavees and $2,000 raised in its inception event in 2003, the numbers speak for themselves on the significance and the extent of public support over these years.
From Day 1 of signing up, my eldest child pleaded with me not to shave my head bald each time I brought up the topic. All the coaxing and rationalising that it was for a good cause did not go down well with her. On the event day, she cried during the entire 5 minutes while witnessing her Papa going through the ceremonial shave on the stage. I had always asked about her concern on my decision to go bald and it wasn't until after the event that she shared wholeheartedly. During the bed time, she said with a stoned face "Papa, people will laugh at you when you are botak (bald) and I don't want that." I didn't think much of bald people when I was a young kid much less at laughing at them. In fact, a head full of colours would catch my attention more than a shiny one. Nevertheless, I tried to rationalise again that it was for a good cause. I even tried my luck and asked if she would ever attempt to shave for charity. She replied with a resounding "NO". I rest my case.
The second child learnt from our helper that the green shampoo in the toilet would help to restore the hair back to its original length overnight. The next morning, when she saw me, she asked "Why are you still botak?" I replied that the recommended shampoo has expired and lost its power.
The youngest child is the most loveable one. In this picture, she tried to summon her magic to help my hair grow. I told her she need to train harder and try again next year after the same event.
For each shavee, it would take at least 3 months to restore their crowning glory. However, for the children who are undergoing active treatment or recovered from cancers, they may have to cope with long term side effects and require life time medication. Hence, the support from the community is important to provide continuing care to these children. Below is an extract of a child undergoing cancer treatment.
“My cancer journey had been so tough with so many ups and downs, but the encouragement along the journey, the friendship, the love and care, all helped me to overcome everything, especially my fears. Today, I may have some concern about a relapse but I am not afraid of facing any upcoming obstacle. I have realised that life is fragile and now I make full use of everyday like tomorrow is the last.” Xinyi, CCF Beneficiary.
If you are keen to find out more about the Children’s Cancer Foundation, please visit https://www.hairforhope.org.sg.
“In our limited life, few things truly matter. Family is one of them”
The Chinese version of the article was also published in Lianhe Wanbao Forum 31 Aug 2018.
Tags: Health Matters /Parent-Child Relationships