By Niamh Burns
IT was a case of ‘hair today, gone tomorrow’ for a Ballymoney woman.
Gina Sheilds, Manager of the Ulster Cancer Foundation (UFC) on Main Street, took the hair-raising plunge of shaving her brunette locks off to raise money for the charity,
Having raising a fantastic £300 for the Shave or Dye fundraiser, Gina was hesitant at first stating: “It’s going to be a bit of mixed emotions for me”. However after much deliberation she finally came to the conclusion that “you only live once” and decided to undergo her transformation by local hairdresser Stephen Cairns on Saturday 16th July.
She revealed that the whole experience went ‘really well’ and although she used to love her longer hair previously, she knew she had to take on this challenge and raise much needed money for Ulster Cancer Foundation.
Speaking to Niamh Burns of the Ballymoney Times, Gina of John Street in the town explained: “I was really nervous about shaving my head, however the event went really well.
“Lots of people turn up on the day to offer me support and encouragment including the local fire service who are always on hand as my husband Stevie is one of the firefighters.
“The first shear was scary but after that I knew their was no going back. So far we have raised well over £300 and more money is still coming in - so it’s been well worth it.”
Despite not liking her new style as she feels ‘unfeminine’, Gina is delighted that she went through with the challenge.
She continued: “I really don’t particularly like it and neither does my husband. I feel like a sore thumb sticking out and people keep looking at me and stopping me in the street offering their hats.
“It does make you feel unfeminine and I find myself applying more make up every morning because I feel bare. I also keep trying to flick my fringe away and then remember I haven’t got one.
“It also strange waking up in the morning and not having to do my hair. The bad weather isn’t helping either and I have to wear warmer clothes at times because I really feel the cold a lot more.”
Although she feels self conscious with her new image, Gina stated: “I’m really glad I did it. It’s been a great insight into seeing and feeling first hand what cancer patients must go through. It has also enabled me to get a better understanding of how someone, especially a woman, feels when going through Chemotherapy and lose all their hair. Women are a lot more emotionally attached to their hair.”
Gina was not the only person from the Ulster Cancer Foundation Ballymoney branch to raise money for the charity, shop assistant volunteer Alan Crawford very bravely dyed his hair red as well.
“On the opposite scale, Alan absolutely loves his new colour change and is glad he went through with it. He’s even decided to keep it red for a couple of months,” Gina added.
“Overall, the event was a fantastic success and I have loved the challenge and meeting new customers. I have also got great pleasure out of knowing both Alan and I have made a difference.
“I would really like to thank all my staff and customers for their support. Thanks also goes to Stephen Cairns, our local fire Service and GL Cole who did tattoos on the day and donated the £10 to our cause.”
Joyce Savage, UCF’s Head of Appeals and Marketing, also praised Gina and her staff stating: “We’d like to thank all those who gave so generously towards our Shave or Dye fundraiser for the Ulster Cancer Foundation. A big thanks also to Gina for being brave enough to shave off her lovely head of hair and to Alan who also went the extra mile by dyeing his hair pink.
“Our Shave or Dye event, which was generously supported by BT, is part of our men’s health campaign - we are urging local men to take better care of themselves by finding out about the signs and symptoms of cancer and how to reduce their risk of getting the disease. We also advise them to go to their GP as soon as possible if they have any concerns.
“Cancer has a major impact on the health of men in Northern Ireland. Each year almost 6,000 men here are diagnosed with some form of the disease – that’s a shocking 22 men every working day. Around 2,000 lose their lives to cancer each year.
“Our message to men (and women) is that it’s never too late to adopt small changes to your lifestyle - a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, moderating alcohol consumption, stopping smoking and taking care in the sun are all positive measures that can dramatically reduce your chances of developing cancer.
“The money we raise through our fundraising goes towards helping cancer patients and their families across Northern Ireland. It funds services including support groups, counselling, health checks and advice, education programmes, smoking cessation clinics, Male Quick Fit sessions, art and creative writing therapy.”
To find out more about UCF’s many free services, to get health advice and support, or to make a donation please contact UCF on 9066 3281 or log onto www.ulstercancer.org. You can also pop into the Ballymoney shop or call on 2766 9644.