Cancer sufferers label shaven head fundraiser 'offensive' and 'facile'

It does not make either you or the charity 'braver' or even 'brave', says former cancer patient

May Bulman
Tuesday 06 September 2016 11:56 BST
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Brave the Shave has seen more than 22,000 people shave their hair off for the charity so far this year
Brave the Shave has seen more than 22,000 people shave their hair off for the charity so far this year (yungshu chao)

A cancer fundraiser that sees people shaving their heads in solidarity with people who have undergone chemotherapy has been labelled "offensive" and "facile".

Macmillan's Brave the Shave campaign prompted anger from former patients who have lost their hair to the disease, with some claiming it brought back unpleasant memories and failed to address the reality of dealing with the condition.

One sufferer wrote on a Mumsnet forum: “I try not to watch these adverts. It actually hurts my head – from the ghost pains of when my hair was coming out during chemo.

“It was a horribly stressful, painful time and it was horrifyingly not only the hair on my head that fell out.

"Red-rimmed eyelashless, streaming eyes and hairless nasal passages dripping mucus isn't brave. It's nasty and unpleasant to look at, and nothing helps.

“If you wish to shave your head and help a charity, good for you, but it does not make either you or the charity 'braver' or even 'brave'.”

Another wrote: "I find this whole campaign offensive, insensitive and patronising – particularly seeing people smile while having their head shaved, and people cheering.

"People who say they will get their head shaved as support haven't a clue! They might choose this, we haven't chosen it – and wouldn't."

Rebecca Masterman, 55, an artist and cancer survivor from Lincolnshire, told The Times the wording of the campaign was “wrong”.

She said: “There is nothing brave about shaving your head. Shave your head, shave your eyebrows, pull out your eyelashes, endure surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and all the never-ending, permanent side effects of treatment and even that’s not brave.

“We have no choice. It’s that or die – not much of a choice.”

The campaign's website states: "By braving the shave you'll be stading proudly alongside men, women and children with cancer".

Macmillan received 55 complaints about last year’s campaign, and the Fundraising Regulator is currently considering a complaint about this year’s Brave the Shave.

In response to the complaints, a Macmillan spokesperson said: "We know that this campaign is not a chosen fundraising method for everyone, but last year we saw over 23,000 people sign up and raise over £4.4m.

"We take all feedback very seriously and we will continue to conduct research with fundraisers and people affected by cancer to inform the development of this campaign in the future."

Brave the Shave has seen more than 22,000 people shave their hair off for the charity so far this year, littering social media with before and after photographs.

This year's Brave the Shave has so far raised £2.9 million, with some individual participants having raised up to £17,285.

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