In March, Branka gathered her workmates to make the hairy sacrifice to shave and colour their hair in honour of loved ones impacted by cancer, just like Branka’s father.
Branka was determined to do something to create a lasting memory of the two big father figures in her life who had both died from cancer, her dad and father-in-law, while honouring friends currently living with cancer.
At 83 years old, Branka’s father was hospitalised with pneumonia three times before doctors found a growth on his left lung. A bronchoscopy revealed that he had lung cancer.
Branka hadn’t always had the smoothest relationship with her father but before he died, he opened up to her in a way he never had before and she is so grateful to have had that time with him. She says her family was fortunate that her father passed peacefully and he wasn’t living in pain for long.
She describes the last time she saw her father, “we really talked for quite a long time. We talked and we laughed and we cried. God did we cry so much together. We held each other’s hands and it was absolutely beautiful to finally have the father I’d always wanted.”
It was mid-last year that she made the decision to shave her head and fundraise for Cancer Council SA. As word spread through her workplace of what Branka was planning, she was approached by multiple workmates, each with their own cancer experiences, who were keen to join her and shave or colour their hair.
Two colleagues shaved their head alongside Branka, and nine each coloured their hair in a different colour of the rainbow – plus pink to represent breast cancer and white for lung cancer.
The event truly brought the whole workplace together for an incredible cause. Branka asked a colleague, who is living with stage 4 melanoma, to be the one to shave her head in honour of the journey he is going through right now.
“People with cancer are losing their hair all the time and they don’t have a choice, but I do.”
“I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t speak at times. Everyone said something about why they came on board and there was just such a massive outpouring of love from everybody.”
Branka set what she thought was an unrealistic target to raise $10,000 for Cancer Council SA—but they smashed it, raising over $11,300!
“When people say to me ‘you’re so brave’ I say, I’m not brave at all. My hair’s going to grow back and I’m okay. These people are fighting every day to try and get rid of this disease from their body,” Branka says.
“Doing something like this has such a profound impact on you and on the way that you look at life. I just feel at peace now that I’ve done it and that I’ve been able to talk about my experience.”
Shaving your head, like Branka did, is a powerful way to raise awareness. But if you’re not ready to go the whole way, you can also get a new ‘do’, dye your hair, wax your legs or chop off your ponytail. Whatever you decide, it’s a courageous act that really connects people to the cause.
To find out more about how you can make the hairy sacrifice and Do It For Cancer, visit cancersa.org.au/get-involved/fundraising.