A breast cancer patient has criticised a leading charity's new Brave the Shave fundraising campaign as insensitive, and is urging the public to back Macmillan Cancer Support in other ways.
Bangor woman Lyn Magill (48), who underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy which caused her to lose her hair, says that while Macmillan is a "brilliant" organisation, its current campaign "belittles the suffering of people who have had hair loss through no choice of their own".
Brave the Shave sees fundraisers undergo sponsored head shaves to raise money for Macmillan. Mum-of-two Lyn wants the word "brave" removed from the fundraising drive's title, as she says shaving the head of a healthy person is "incomparable" with the suffering of those with cancer.
"Macmillan do a great job and they have been very good to me, but Brave the Shave is not the right way forward or the right use of words," she claimed.
"I don't think that this campaign is giving out a very positive message. I would like Macmillan to change the word 'brave' in the title, as the people who are taking part in this initiative have a choice, whereas people who have chemotherapy and lose their hair don't.
"I have also seen people getting 'number one' or 'number two' haircuts and claiming that they have 'Braved the Shave'.
"I also don't think it is right to offer fundraisers the chance to have their photographs taken as they lose their hair.
"When I got my diagnosis and people said they would shave their hair off to make me feel good and support me, I was horrified.
"No one should do this if they have a choice.
"In my view there shouldn't be any more people walking around with hair loss than there needs to be. This can't be compared to what those who are losing their hair from cancer suffer. Cancer sufferers lose every hair on their body, not just on their head, including their eyebrows and eyelashes."
Following her breast cancer diagnosis last October, she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy to treat her three-centimetre tumour, and must take tablets for the next five to 10 years. She is due to undergo another scan this October to determine whether her treatment has been a success. "When I shaved my head five days before last Christmas, I did it because I wanted to take control," Lyn said. "I wasn't going to wait until it all fell out.
"I only wore a wig once, at Christmas, and my hair has now grown back into a pixie cut.
"When I received my diagnosis I got a grant from Macmillan to help out, and since then I have raised money for them by creating and selling 'sea pottery' pictures. I would encourage people to do something like that to raise money for Macmillan, or a sponsored walk or bake sale, instead of Brave the Shave.
"I think a lot of people feel the same. I think Macmillan need to listen to the people they are making money for, and I think the campaign could be improved."
Macmillan Cancer Support's head of national events, Heather Pearl, said: "Last year more than half of the 23,000 people who signed up to Brave the Shave did so because they had seen the impact of cancer on their loved ones. Many people who take part say that it is an important way for them to express their support for friends and family who have had cancer. We know that deciding to shave your head for charity and losing your hair during cancer treatment are worlds apart. It's not our intention in any way to compare the two experiences and we will take on board any feedback we receive to make sure that our campaigns and events are as sensitive as possible."