We hear the respective reasons why five non-cancer patients shaved their heads when breast cancer patient, Angela Nel, lost her hair.
Angela Nel (38) lives in Vereeniging, Gauteng, with her husband, Louis, and their three children, aged 14, four and two.
Angela sits in her oncologist’s rooms at 7pm. She can see her oncologist’s lips moving but Angela doesn’t know what she is saying. All she can hear is the ticking of the clock, hanging on the wall. During the long drive back to Vereeniging, Angela and her husband, Louis, sit in silence.
In August 2017, Angela was at the doctor, as her middle child – her daughter – had a fever throughout the night, when she mentioned that that morning she felt a lump in her right breast. Her doctor referred her for a mammogram the same day. After the mammogram, a sonar was done and then a biopsy was scheduled two days later. Angela was diagnosed with Stage
3 hormone positive breast cancer. She made a promise to herself that no matter what, she would still get out of bed every morning and get dressed. This was important to her to keep things as normal as possible for her children.
The mother of three started chemotherapy in September: four ‘red devil’ and 12 taxol. Thereafter, the plan was to have a double mastectomy but her doctors were so pleased with the response to chemotherapy, saying she was a case-book study of the chemo therefore her surgery only consisted of the removal of the scar tissue (of the tumour) and a slight lift. This took place in April 2018. Then in June, Angela started radiation – 30 sessions. Tamoxifen was prescribed for five years, and Angela goes for a Zoladex injection every three months.
Bald and confident
Two weeks into treatment, clumps of Angela’s hair started to fall out. Angela phoned her sister-in-law, who is a hairdresser, to come shave her head. Angela’s oldest son told her he didn’t want to be there when it happened. So, they shaved it while he was at school (it was discovered, after he was counselled by a psychologist, that he was not embarrassed that his mom was bald but rather he was worried that people would make fun of her). Angela’s daughter, who was three at the time, sat on her lap and couldn’t understand why mommy was cutting her hair.
Much to Angela’s surprise, she felt confident and at ease with her bald head. She explains, “It’s a relief as there is so much build-up to losing your hair, but once it happens, it’s not that bad. Plus, you’re relieved that you have gotten that far and are still alive.”
Capturing a moment in time
Nadia Swart, Angela’s best friend and a Theatre Sister, then came up with an idea that included four other women: Willene Kruger, Elsa van der Wath, Christelle Lee and Gwen Clark (Angela’s older sister). She wanted to commemorate a moment in their lives.Her reasoning was that they each had gone through a trying event that year, whether it be related to cancer or not. So, she asked them to shave their heads not only in support of Angela but to mark these events they had triumphed.
Being Angela’s older sister, Gwen was shattered when she found out Angela had cancer, and felt so helpless. By shaving her head, she finally felt she was doing something of worth for her sister. Nadia nearly lost her father in a car accident, while Willene lost her mother to cancer. Elsa has lost many people to cancer, but most of all she wanted to make a difference. Lastly, Christelle’s reason was that her best friend was diagnosed with kidney failure, at the age of 19, and also lost her hair. She did it for her and to show women they are far more than just hair.
This special day took place in December 2017, with photographer, Rene Gomes (Memory Box Photography) capturing it, and Carla van Wijk (ICP Productions) filming it.
When asked what this day meant to them and how they experienced it, these brave women responded with the following quotes:
Christelle – “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain.
Willene – “Showing gratitude is one the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” – Randy Pausch.
Nadia – “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist, that is all.” Oscar Wilde.
Elsa – “Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed.” – Hunter S Thompson.
Gwen – “We might fall, we might rise…but I can’t go back to the way I was.” – JEM and The Holograms.
As seen by the photos, this day was truly remarkable! No words can describe how this day impacted Angela. She cries every time she watches the video.
“It’s the highlight of my journey and a beautiful memory that I can treasure for the rest of my life and show everyone,” she says.
She adds that these women are so much braver then her as she doesn’t know if she would’ve shaved her head (her hair was past her shoulders) if she didn’t have cancer.
Angela adds that having cancer has taught her to live slower. “ I want to take in every moment with my family and friends and make it count. Follow your happy, wherever it takes you.”
MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams
Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. firstname.lastname@example.org