I shaved off my hair for the charities that saved my sister and my former boyfriend’s lives
Pascale almost lost her sister to anorexia, and her partner to cancer
Growing up, her sister battled with anorexia, which she fortunately fought off and is now a passionate advocate for Beat, and helping to spread awareness for eating disorders, and to help people to recover.
Later, while she was at Loughborough University, her boyfriend was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 20. She spent nights by his side in hospital, and is eternally grateful to the care and compassion they showed them both. They have since broken up, but remain close friends and this was something she wanted to do to give back.
She decided to shave her head “out of respect and admiration for all of the young people out there who don’t have the luxury of choosing what they want to do with theirs”.
About her newly shaven look, Pascale told The Tab: “It’s pretty rad, I quite like it. I kind of thought I just want to see what it’s like. I dress like a boy most of the time anyway and my hair annoys me a lot.
“People double take a lot. I was a bit apprehensive about work [in the fashion department at Next], I warned everyone before I went in. But everyone was really supportive there. But yeah, in the street it’s a bit weird, it’s hard to get used to.
“I do get people looking at me but that’s probably because of my height as well.”
The idea came around a year ago: “I’m not actually with my boyfriend anymore, but at that time he was going through chemo while I was at uni still. I used to go and stay with him in hospital every month, overnight. With the Teenage Cancer Trust, the good thing is you get your own room – otherwise you’d have to be a day patient with older people on the ward.
“I’d go and stay with him overnight in hospital, and I’d met other people there. There was a girl there whose cancer had come back a couple of times, she lost all her hair. She told me about how people at home would tease her for it. So I just thought it would be a cool thing to do. My boyfriend didn’t have any hair back then either, so I thought it would be cool to do it together.
“Uni took hold and things got delayed – it was also winter and I thought my head would be really cold! I put it off.
“Me and my boyfriend broke up around Christmas time but I still wanted to do something for him.
“Obviously my sister, growing up alongside her struggling – which she’s written a book about – both of these charities I’ve been wanted to do something for for a while..
“So I just thought one day, ‘I’m just going to shave my head’. I’d made my mind up.”
Pascale explains why she is raising money for Beat: “When she was 19, my sister suffered extensively with both anorexia and bulimia that both stemmed from depression and anxiety. Lydia was beautiful, bubbly and funny but when she became ill the disease not only took over her body but her spirit and personality.
“She was told that she was going to die – and this is around the time she managed to turn things around. Eating disorders are still remarkably misunderstood so its important that people learn that, like any mental health issue, they are a disease.
“Having experienced eating disorders from the point of view of a family member or loved one I can honestly say that my sister is a true role model. Not only has she recovered from this cruel disease and the other hurdles that came with it but she has become a stronger and more confident woman – she also had the true bravery and grit to write the most honest, heartbreaking but equally inspiring book about her experiences with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicidal tendencies. Not everyone is this lucky though.
“Lydia is not the only person I have seen struggle with this disease. Its so heartbreaking to see someone you love deteriorate to such an extent and through no true fault of their own.”
She added: “My sister is a big advocate for eating disorder awareness. We’re both really open about it, and I’m an open person anyway. I think it’s better to talk about things because you might be able to help someone by doing that. I’ve had a few people message me already saying their sisters are struggling with anorexia, asking for advice. It’s nice to be able to help people.”
About her fundraise for Teenage Cancer Trust, Pascale explains: “This time a year ago, my partner had not long finished his chemotherapy and was preparing for major surgery. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer after about five visits to the doctors. Pretty much as soon as he was diagnosed he had surgery to remove the tumour. Unfortunately it had already spread to a gland meaning chemotherapy was required and then after that didn’t get rid of it, he was cut chest to abdomen to surgically remove what was left.
“As he was 20 at the time, he had the option of being treated with adult patients, or with the Teenage Cancer Trust at Nottingham hospital. He chose Teenage Cancer Trust and I honestly believe if this hadn’t have been an option the entire experience would have been a lot more traumatic than it was.”
She added: “The staff were all amazingly kind and light-hearted which helped more than you can imagine. He was able to have his own room, with an ensuite and a TV. There was also a common room with Playstations and TVs etc….basically things to keep you entertained whilst stuck in the hospital.
“I know, from what he said that it made a big difference to him as a patient, but from my honest experience as a loved one, the environment that the Teenage Cancer Trust created made me feel a whole lot calmer, more positive and although it was difficult there were aways genuine kind faces around to reassure.
“Looking back the whole thing is a bit of a blur but from talking to other patients there and watching someone go through treatment, this is defiantly a cause that deserves any funding or donations that it receives.”
She added: “The diagnoses of cancer as a Teenager or young adult is something that i can not even imagine having to go through but having someone so close to me go through it was a real eye opener. – Its so easy to ignore things that aren’t directly affecting your life but as soon as they do it feels like everything is falling apart. Charities like the Teenage Cancer Trust are so important as they give you that hope and reassurance which you really need in these times.”
Pascale says since shaving her hair, people have been scared to acknowledge it, out of fear for upsetting her: “I was having my eyelashes curled the other day because I thought it would be nice to be a bit girly, I started talking to the girl about it. When I told her, she was like ‘oh that’s really cool’.”
She went to Revs on Saturday night: “I felt really uncomfortable. This was when I’d just had it done. There were loads of girls with bodycon dresses and hair extensions and stuff. I’ve probably had a better reception from boys than girls, in that sense.”
She says the key thing is the difference in how much she feels the cold: “I tend to walk around with a scarf now – it’s the back of my neck, more than my head actually, and my ears.”
Before the big shave, she said: “I am shaving my head in respect and admiration for all of the young people out there who don’t have the luxury of choosing what they want to do with theirs but instead have to watch it fall out because of this cruel disease.
“I am going to look like my dad’s twin, and will probably get mistaken for a boy more often than not – as a bald head will match my dress sense.
“But if I can raise some money for this great organisation then thats fine with me.”