Hannah Reynolds tells us how she dealt with her mum's breast cancer diagnosis and why she decided to organise a fashion show to fundraise for Breast Cancer Now.

Friday 29 January 2016      Guest blog
Why I'm fundraising for Breast Cancer Now

Well… What do you say…

We don’t have a history of breast cancer in our family, so in February 2014 when my mum told me that she had found some abnormalities, I didn’t make the jump to breast cancer. It’s hard to comprehend that someone you love could get this diagnosis.

As mum went through a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy we learnt that each treatment comes with a delightful set of side effects; fatigue, nausea, forgetfulness and many more. However, there was one side effect that had a particularly strong effect on me - hair loss.

No hair, don’t care

Hair loss is undoubtedly the ‘sign’ of cancer, but the plan had been for mum to wear a cold cap during chemotherapy to help prevent it from happening.

For people who don’t know what a cold cap is, it’s literally a cap designed to make your head so cold that it reduces the flow of blood carrying the chemotherapy drugs to the hair follicles, which is what causes them to fall out. The drawback is, it’s not a ‘see how you feel on the day’ kind of thing, as with a cold cap you’re either all in from the first session or not at all.

Having the cold cap would have increased the duration of the chemotherapy session and mum couldn’t stand the thought of more discomfort and prolonged time in hospital. So we resorted to plan B, or maybe plan C as not having breast cancer was the ideal plan A.

From mum’s first chemo session her hair started to come out when she brushed it. In a month or so, she went from having shoulder length hair, to cropped hair, to a shaved head. When mum shaved her head I thought it would have a negative effect on me and signify another loss and more change mum had to deal with, but it was actually really liberating. It felt like we were giving the middle finger to breast cancer.

A standout memory is mum and I being in a lift with a man who was staring unashamedly at my mum’s headscarf, as I saw him staring so obviously I made point a of staring at him in turn. Luckily, my mum was preoccupied and didn’t notice him staring, but I’d had enough and decided I was going to make a point.

We left the lift on the same floor, which was fairly busy so I casually but loudly said “Wow, you’d think he’s never seen a woman in a headscarf before”, to which people looked at me and mum and then looked pretty disgustedly at the guy I had basically shouted at.

Light bulb moment

For a while I’d been thinking that I wanted to do something to fundraise for breast cancer research, but I had no idea what. After this incident, I wanted to do an event that gave women the chance to show that they may have lost part of their breasts, one breast, both breasts, or their hair, but they haven’t lost their beauty.

For women wearing post-mastectomy bras, some of the bra straps are thick to provide extra support and for my mum, this meant that she had a lot of tops she couldn’t wear without showing these straps. So I had one of those light bulb moments and thought that I would combine this with my goal to empower women and hold a fashion show.

It took a while for me to jump on the fundraising bandwagon, but it’s such a good feeling to be working towards helping women like my mum and families like mine.

Now is good

We believe that if we all act now, by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer will live. 

If you think the time is now and would like to get involved, request a free fundraising pack full of great ideas to get you started.

Request a pack

We also have lots of lovely new pink promotional materials we can send you so please do get in touch with us on 0333 20 70 300 or email community@breastcancernow.org and let us know what you’ve got planned.

About the author

Hannah Reynolds is Marketing and Analysis Executive at Breast Cancer Now, and a sewing novice.