Whether because of necessity or simply for a fashion statement, baldness and the shaving of hair have become almost universally accepted.
But some have no choice in the matter, such as those afflicted with various forms of cancer, which require exhaustive, aggressive rounds of chemotherapy, a treatment that usually results in the loss of hair on the scalp, which can be temporary or permanent depending on the condition.
Today, students of the University of Belize and other concerned Belizeans gathered at the University’s Faculty of Education and Arts determined to raise awareness about detection and prevention of cancer by the dramatic but effective method of shaving their locks – or putting a color streak in for those not prepared to go that far.
Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis-Barrow, wife of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, learned that she had stage three breast cancer last October and has since been engaged in a public battle with the disease. At a public event in January, she appeared in public completely bald, without a wig – earning public support from individuals dedicated to the fight against all forms of cancer.
Inspired by her example, several young men and women attending UB and particularly those in the Communication Skills class taught by Silvaana Udz, Ed. D. (doctorate in education), a UB lecturer, decided to publicly shave their locks. Udz did hers live during a talk show on LOVE FM Sunday morning, and others were shaved following a ceremony this morning at the Faculty of Education and Arts (formerly Belize Teachers’ College), on University Drive.
Several women and a few men volunteered to be shorn by the barbers from Jonze Unisex Salon, while others simply chose to have their hair streaked with a color of their choice. The cut hair, except for those with chemical treatments, can be donated to the Belize Cancer Society, who uses it to make wigs for cancer survivors who have lost their hair to chemotherapy.
Ivorine Bulwer (wife of Dr. Bernard Bulwer, Chief of Staff of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH)) of the Belize Cancer Society, challenged those present to extend their outreach in public education and to contribute to the efforts of the Society in public awareness, as well as to encourage loved ones to be tested for early detection of various forms of cancer. The target is a 25% reduction in premature deaths by 2025.
The packed gathering also heard testimonials from two survivors of cancer: the University’s public information officer, Selwyn King, a former broadcaster with the Broadcasting Corporation of Belize (BCB) who battled brain cancer in New York City, and Sister Caritas Lawrence, who publicly revealed for the first time that she has been wearing a wig since 1997 after winning her own cancer fight with a tumor in her kidney – and then publicly took it off and had the remainder of the hair on her head shaved to support the cause.
King told the rapt audience that through “faith, family and friends” he survived 14 hours of surgery and the real possibility of losing his skills of speech, movement and his life to a tumor at the base of the brain which attached itself to his spine. It was a tough road, but he came through, and can now quip, with hindsight, about the time before learning his diagnosis, when he was having blackouts and seeing two of everything due to crossed eyes: “…It was the only time I had two wives in my life. It was a wonderful moment.”
Making a special appearance, Simplis-Barrow told those present that she was proud of the effort of the students and implored Belizeans to “love yourself enough to get tested…knowing is powerful because [only then] you can do something about it.” She mentioned that in her own case she had absolutely none of the classic symptoms; in fact, the only thing wrong with her health was a persistent cold and flu in September.
Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan), David Wu, who with his wife Annie presented a set of potted orchids to Mrs. Barrow at the ceremony, among other gifts donated by the University, also publicly promised a donation of $3,000 from the Embassy of the ROC to the Cancer Society and continued collaboration with them.
But one need not make special donations or dramatic gestures to spread the word. Sometimes, as Udz told us, it can be as simple as a hug, kiss, or holding hands. She shared the shocking story of a woman who allegedly is afraid to go through with a mastectomy to fight her breast cancer because she believes her husband would not love her anymore.
But even if one has to “lose the husband”, Mrs. Barrow replied, life is worth so much more.