Women swap vanity for charity and raise $12,000 for breast cancer prevention in Nunavut
Tufts of Margaret Craigie’s brown hair fall to the floor. Each twist and turn of the electric razor generates cheers from an appreciative crowd.
“I think of women in Grise Fiord and remote communities who may not know how to detect lumps and maybe this will help,” Craigie says after her cut.
By this, Craigie means Cuts for Cancer, a head-shaving fundraiser organized by the Royal Purple at the Navigator Inn on June 21. Six women and one child lopped off their locks and raised $12,000 for the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council. The money will be used to produce tabletop displays and an English-Inuktitut brochure illustrating breast self-exams. The idea is that early detection of a lump may save a woman’s life.
Nunavut’s breast cancer rate is significantly lower than the national average, according to recent Government of Nunavut statistics. But what makes breast cancer a concern here is the absence of preventative resources, such as a mammogram machine, support groups and breast health promotions in Inuktitut.
The idea behind Cuts for Cancer arose in February at meeting of the Royal Purple, the women’s branch of the Elk’s Club. Last year, the group raised $2,700 during a Concert For Cancer. This year, members wanted to try something different. The goal was to raise $5,000.
“It’s going to feel really good to hand [Qulliit] the cheque,” Craigie said.
Craigie opted for a buzz cut instead of a full shave. “I’m going to a wedding in August. My hair won’t be back to its usual length but at least it will be long enough that I won’t look like an army cadet,” she said.
Outgoing Qulliit vice-president Allison Brewer called the event inspiring.
“Hair is so much a part of who we are and for these women to radically alter their appearance to raise awareness about breast cancer is amazing,” Brewer said.
Hair stylist Debbie Purchase donated her time. The Navigator provided the location. Denise Doyle, former Iqaluit resident and breast cancer survivor, sent up bandannas.
Doyle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. She underwent chemotherapy in the South, returned to Iqaluit but left earlier this year for other health reasons.
“That’s the thing about Iqaluit. When a crisis hits, people really rally behind you,” Doyle said from her home in Nova Scotia.
Terri Chegwyn, early morning host of 99.9 FM Raven Radio, went to watch the event. She left a different woman.
She collected exactly $999.99 through a rapid succession of phone calls to fellow Elks members. There was no turning back and Chegwyn happily succumbed to the shears.
“It’s not quite shaved, just shaved on the side. I like it. It’s very low-maintenance when you’re getting up at 4 a.m.,” she said.