Why I will again be shaving my head for leukaemia research

Update, February 2015 – Bid for a solar system necklace

Before you sponsor me to shave my hair off for leukaemia research and read the blog below, a generous donation from Alistair of Bentley and Hope, Queenscliff, means that I have two (yes two) of these silver-chained solar system necklaces for people to bid for. The two necklaces will go to the people who sponsor me the two highest single amounts (and who tell me you are doing so on the sponsor site, via @DrChromo or via jeff.craig@mcri.edu ). RRP is AUD45 (GBP25). Bid away!

The unique, limited edition silver solar system necklace made locally in Melbourne

Here is the original article:

Every year since 1998, hundreds of thousands of Australians have shaved or coloured their hair in the annual Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave . Why do they do it? Why have I done it this year?


My sister Sarah developed leukaemia as a teenager. I can remember, almost thirty years ago, peering through the door of my sister’s isolation ward and all I could see was her bald head. She had just been through aggressive rounds of chemotherapy and radiation and she looked so fragile. These treatments  target all rapidly dividing cells, which includes cancer cells but also ‘collateral damage’ of cells lining the gut and hair follicles. If this sounds a little like chopping your hand off to get rid of a spot on your finger, you are correct, but research is slowly making treatments more specific for cancer cells. For those of us that haven’t been there, it is impossible to describe what treatment for leukaemia feels like. The closest I have come is reading about it in Paullina Simons’ book The Girl in Times Square, in which the main character experiences something similar.

Sarah was treated successfully because of a combination of aggressive treatment and a transplant of fresh bone marrow from my brother Jim. She also survived because of previous successes in leukaemia research . Successes that have come about through years of research into finding the best way to treat and cure people with leukaemia and other blood cancers and through years of trying to discover how and why people get leukaemia. As a result, cure rates have increased annually over the past thirty years. For example, the average survival rate for all types of leukaemia  has risen from 12% in the early 1970s to 44% in 2005-2009.

However, in recent years, the success rate for obtaining research funding from the Australian government has generally decreased, causing leukaemia researchers to look to other sources of funding. This is where the Leukaemia Foundation and other such organisations around the world such as the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research in the UK have helped to fill this gap.

Importantly,  the Leukaemia Foundation also provides financial support for families of those suffering from leukaemia, which can involve extensive travel to hospitals.

Many women also take part

It’s always hard asking for money, as anyone who’s ever had to rattle a tin can tell you. In the case of the World’s Greatest Shave, it helps that a coloured or bald head can act as a ‘selling point’. Reactions from others are manifold, from people who look the other way to those who donate and engage. OK, many already give to their own favourite charity; I understand that. But I like the engagers; they make life interesting.  This year, one sponsored me for a mohawk haircut then another to get everything shaved off. No problem.

Yes, even George Bush shaved for leukaemia

So that’s why some people show solidarity with those living with blood cancers such as leukaemia and this is why I have chosen to do so this year. In remembrance of someone who, through the benefits of leukaemia research, gained an extra twenty nine years of a rich and fulfilling life, including marrying and giving birth, and all the time staying positive.

Sarah with son Matthew

Postscript: It’s not too late to donate donate


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