Sara’s headdress challenge
Laura Cartledge tips her hat to one remarkable woman.
Being diagnosed with cancer is hard enough, but one Brighton resident decided it was her chance for a different kind of challenge.
“I was told that there was a 99 per cent chance of losing my hair,” recalls Sara Cutting. “I got in to the whole thing of ‘god I have to have chemo’ – I have to take some kind of control.”
So, the week before her treatment was due to start, Sara went to her hairdressers with a special request.
“I asked them to give me an undercut, where they shave half of it off,” she explains.
“I did that and I came out and felt brilliant. I thought ‘why have I had a conventional haircut for so long?’”
Inspired, Sara wondered how she could make the most of the situation both for herself and to raise awareness for the cause.
“I considered having a different haircut every day until it fell out – then I would shave it off,” she reveals. “But how many haircuts can you squeeze out of one head?”
Looking for an idea online that was along the same line, but without limitations, brought Sara to her Daily Headgear Challenge and documenting her journey.
“I thought about it long and hard,” she admits. “I hadn’t used social media for anything but work before really, it was a massive decision for me to make.”
On the Sunday before her Tuesday chemo appointment, Sara took the plunge and set up a donations page which she posted to Facebook.
“It was phenomenal,” she exclaims. “By the Tuesday, when I was walking up to the hospital, I had raised £1,000 which blew the £200 target out of the water.”
The cause continued to pick up momentum and attention which caused the target to be upped to £10,000 and the challenge to be increased.
“People still need support after all the treatment is over and this is life changing – there is no way of getting around that.
“That is why I decided to extend my challenge to being over a year,” Sara explains. “Plus I really like wearing all the hats and making the headgear.
“The early photos are of actual headwear, now it is becoming more and more mad,” she smiles. “Just sitting here I am thinking I like that blanket and that lime green flower pot.”
Fittingly it was Flour Pot Bakery who inspired one of Sara’s early conceptual pieces – aptly named ‘bread head’ – and local businesses have been getting on board ever since.
“The reaction has been surprising and humbling,” she confesses. “I have been contacted by a lot of strangers who have been incredibly kind.
“I am determined to not let the cancer define me, but it is demanding in the way it fills my time with hospital appointments – it is full on,” Sara says.
“Without sounding like a cliché you never think it is going to be you.
“The diagnosis was surreal and this challenge is what has helped me through it.”
A daily task allows Sara to take each day one at a time, stops her ‘hopping to far into the future’ and works to fill the void left by the things she can’t do anymore.
“I run a building company with my partner and dress events, but the nerve damage and the chemo means I am unable to work. So I daydream about this as my new business,” she admits.
“Some days, without it, I don’t know if I would have the motivation to get out of bed.
“I feel like I have a big hangover every day, that is my experience of chemo.
“I know I would definitely have focused on the illness more.”
By Sara’s side, throughout this whirlwind, has been her Macmillan nurse.
“We love Lisa,” she grins. “She would be there with me all the time, you have a heck of a lot of appointments and she would be there after to check I had understood all of it.
“It is scary, of course it is scary,” says Sara. “You find yourself reading statistics to convince yourself you will be fine.
“I found the lump myself and I immediately went to the doctors – within a week I was at the hospital clinic – deep down I think I knew that something wasn’t right.
“I think, I hope, this is a positive and fun way of getting the message out there,” she concludes, before signing off with “now go check your boobs!”
To follow Sara’s story, or support her challenge, visit www.justgiving.com/chemosnoodhead
March 14, 2015 Culture and Events