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Brave the Shave: Belfast woman shaves hair after losing three loved ones to cancer

“People said I was so brave for shaving my head, but bravery to me is the people like my sister-in-law who braved cancer.”

By Valerie Edwards

In a little over two years, Pauline Valente lost three loved ones to cancer, prompting her to take action against cancer.

Her husband Jim died in March 2013, two years after being diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Her father Joe, died in January 2015, also from melanoma and her best friend and sister-in-law, Marie, lost her battle to breast cancer a week before Pauline shaved her head to raise money for the Brave the Shave campaign.

Brave the Shave encourages men and women to shave their heads and raise money for cancer services and research. People with cancer go through hair loss and changes to their appearance that can affect everything from the way they look, to how they feel and Macmillan Cancer Support provides services every step of the way for cancer patients. 

Marie was Pauline's inspiration for participating in the campaign and the two knew each other for 29 years. They became best friends after Marie's son passed away from melanoma around his 30th birthday, a tragedy Marie never recovered from.

Pauline said: “Marie was my best friend and she'd been battling cancer for about seven years before it spread and she lost her hair from chemotherapy; it was just a very traumatic experience.

“My sister-in-law was always positive and in control, very inspiring and she never let anything get to her. She was my inspiration for shaving my hair off for Macmillan Cancer Support,” said Pauline.

She added: “Despite undergoing treatment at the time, she was such a tower of strength and support to me whilst caring for Jim. Her support, strength and positivity throughout her illness has had a major influence on me and on my outlook in life."

The Belfast mum-of-three braved the shave on August 7 and to date she has raised £2,300 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Pauline said: “When I saw the Brave the Shave campaign on Facebook, I thought, 'my I could do that' especially when Macmillian was very helpful to my husband up until he died.

“People said I was so brave for shaving my head, but bravery to me is the people like my sister-in-law who braved cancer.”

More than 20,000 people have joined Pauline to Brave the Shave and to date they've raised more than £3 million for Macmillan.

Cancer support in Northern Ireland is crucial as there will be an estimated 63,000 people living with cancer in NI by the end of 2015.

More than 2.5 million people are living with cancer in the UK and that number is estimated to rise to 4 million by 2030.

Pauline joined a support group and found new friends who have also lost loved ones to cancer and she's been able to cope with her losses through the people she's connected with. She even met her new partner, Robert, who was very encouraging when she suggested taking part in the shave.

Together they are enjoying life to the fullest and their ongoing mantra is: life is too short.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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