A 26-year-old mum has shaved off her waist-length hair to raise money for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), who supported her family when she was a child.
Jodie Ward and her husband Gareth, from Bedfordshire, bravely chopped off each other’s locks in memory of Jodie’s brother Martin, who died in 1994, three days before his seventh birthday.
Martin had retinoblastoma in both his eyes, and sadly the cancer spread and he passed away after a four-year battle. As Martin had a genetic form of cancer, Jodie and her brother Callum were screened regularly for many years.
Now, since becoming mum to 16-month-old Luna, Jodie has begun to understand the enormity of the grief her parents must have felt. So when Gareth, 28, told her he wanted to do a sponsored head shave in Martin’s memory, she decided to join him.
Jodie said: “Until we became parents, Gareth and I couldn’t come anywhere close to comprehending how painful losing Martin must have been for my parents. So when Gareth told me his idea, I had a moment of madness and told Gareth I would join him.”
Jodie added: “As a family we spent a lot of time at hospital, when Martin was ill and then for years after as Callum and I had our eyes checked regularly. Hospital was always a fun place for me as a child and I now appreciate that this was down to the hospital and charity staff.”
Gareth was inspired after reading about a charity head shave event and decided he wanted to have a go himself for CHECT. Jodie, who has long curly hair that reaches her waist when straight, admitted that she had a few moments of regret after her decision to take part.
‘Oh my goodness, what have I done!’
She said: “None of my friends could believe it – they thought I was mad. But once I’d made my mind up I couldn’t back down. We’d planned to do the head shave in August but then we got so hot during the heatwave in July, we spontaneously decided to do it then and there one weekend. I did Gareth’s head and then he did mine, somewhat reluctantly.”
Jodie added: “The next day I was like, oh my goodness, what have I done! I went out and bought about 20 headscarves.”
Funnily enough, Luna – who has also had her eyes checked – was more perplexed by her daddy’s new look than her mummy’s. Jodie says: “She kept pointing at him and looking confused. She wasn’t sure about it at all. But she didn’t seem to mind my new look.”
The couple have already raised more than £1,000 for CHECT and you can still sponsor them at justgiving.com/fundraising/mrandmrsward.
Jodie added: “I know it’s just hair at the end of the day and people do this all the time but I do understand now how hard it must be for women and girls who lose their hair. I hope that our donation can help other families battling cancer in the future.”
Around 98% of children will survive retinoblastoma in the UK but early diagnosis is crucial in order to save a child’s eyes, sight and life. The most common retinoblastoma symptoms are a white glow in a child’s eye or pupil in dim lighting or when a photo is taken using a flash, and a squint.
Patrick Tonks, Chief Executive of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, said: “Around one child in the UK is diagnosed with retinoblastoma each week. We offer support to every family affected, as well as campaigning to raise awareness of this little known condition and fund research into its prevention and treatment.
“We don’t receive any government funding so we rely on the generosity of supporters like Jodie and Gareth to pay for our vital work. We are incredibly grateful to them both for this fantastic fundraising effort.”