With more than 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK right now, more work than ever needs to be done to research ways to battle the deadly disease.
With the slogan: “Whatever cancer throws your way, we’re right there with you”, Macmillan is one charity which is trying to find more innovative ways to raise the cash to help that fight.
Step forward “Brave the Shave”, an annual event in which participants volunteer to shed their lustrous locks to fundraise for a brighter future.
Started in 2015, the campaign has so far raised £22.7million.
Here, the Sunday Mirror speaks with four brave fundraisers who have swapped their hairbrushes for razors to do their bit.
“I chose to lose my hair on my terms to take back control”
When Julie Swinton was diagnosed in September with breast cancer, she admits it “knocked her sideways”.
Julie, 50, had seen no symptoms, but her cancer was found during a scan.
She said: “I had a routine mammogram and a small lump was picked up. It was quickly discovered to be cancer. Getting that news was a complete shock.”
But for the mum-of-three, her own feelings were the last of her concerns.
She explained: “Although my three children are grown up, all I could think of was them. How do I tell them? Breaking the news to them was the hardest bit by far.”
Julie told how the family – Sarah, 29, Rachel, 26, Dave, 24, and husband Ian – were “nothing but a support”.
She was quickly booked in for surgery to remove the lump, followed by radiotherapy.
Julie said: “Macmillan were brilliant. It was information, support – and just sympathy, which was invaluable for me and my family.
“They also gave funding help with a grant that took away the stress of how I was going to pay towards the daily travel to and from Addenbrooke’s Hospital.”
Julie, left, of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, braved the shave on July 25 – losing her long grey locks in front of proud friends and family.
She also donated the hair to The Little Princess Trust, which makes wigs for children with cancer.
She said: “After my diagnosis I was fully expecting to lose my hair. When I didn’t, I decided to do it on my own terms. It was all about me taking control.”
Julie, training to be ordained into the clergy, has so far raised around £1,000.
To give your backing to Julie, visit her Macmillan page .
“It was a way to thank nurses who keep us going every day”
For Mike Walker, every single day is a fight at the moment.
His baby daughter Elsie, who is just 18 months, was diagnosed with Pilomyxoid Astrocytoma, a rare type of brain tumour in April of this year – just months after her first birthday.
Already the brave toddler has been through four sessions of brain surgery, including one 13-hour stint under anaesthetic to remove the main tumour.
She is now in the middle of chemotherapy and Mike, 35, is fighting Elsie’s battle with her every step of the way. He said: “Finding out Elsie has cancer was a totally devastating experience.
“Finding out Elsie has cancer was one of the most devastating experiences of our lives. Everything changes. You know life will never be the same again,” he said.
“After the initial shock came the determination to help her beat the cancer. She made remarkable progress after the surgery and we are drawing our strength from her.”
Mike, from York, took part in the shave a few weeks back surrounded by friends and family and has so far raised an impressive £7,000.
He said: “All the healthcare professionals have been amazing and we feel safe knowing Elsie si being looked after by such an incredible team. It is all brought together by our Macmillan Nurse Ella who is heling us navigate a system we never imagined being a part of.”
To donate, visit Mike’s Macmillan page .
“I wanted to stay positive for brave daughter and baby”
For Vera Williams, Brave the Shave was a way to shed light on a dark time for her family.
Less than three weeks before granddaughter Lailah’s second birthday, the family were told she had cancer.
Vera said: “She has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, but responded well. She’s my inspiration.”
Gran Vera, right, who raised £2,000, added: “Just before the shave, I saw I had three missed calls from my daughter. With what we’d been through, to see her really trying to get hold of me made me feel sick.”
But when Vera, of Maidstone, Kent, phoned back, it was far from what she had feared.
She revealed: “She told me Lailah was officially in remission – I just burst into tears. When they’re that tiny it’s really hard to stay positive but it’s so important to try.
“I wanted to do this as a way to bring the family all together.”
To donate on behalf of Vera, visit her Macmillan page .
Nicola Diamond wanted to raise funds for Macmillan in memory of beloved mum Linda Watt – who faced cancer not once, but twice.
Linda, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, was determined to stay alive for her family – husband Stanley and her three daughters Nicola, Lindsey and Claire.
Nicola, 41, said: “She had a mastectomy on one breast, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and lost all her hair.
“I remember going on drives with her to pick up potions and lotions which she had read would work. She fought it with everything she had, and she won.”
But that was only Linda’s first battle with the disease.
Nicola said: “In 2005 it came back. And by the time we got the diagnosis, it was too late. It was terminal. Mum had no fight left, it was hard to watch.”
Nicola says Macmillan was “a lifeline” during that time. The charity gave support in the home to keep things as normal as they could be, and even funded a stairlift so when Linda struggled to move around, things became easier.
She said: “I don’t know what we’d have done without them at that time. I don’t know how people get through it without them.”
Since Linda died, Nicola has fundraised relentlessly for the charity – running half marathons and doing bake sales, until she saw the Brave the Shave appeal.
She said: “I thought, ‘Why not?’ I could do it as my own choice to pay tribute to those who do not have a choice in the matter.”
Mum-of-three Nicola, who has so far raised around £2,000, said she has also had huge family support, especially from her own three young children, Roisin, six,
Rory, seven and Martha, nine. She said: “Rory told me at first he was going to move away when I told him I was shaving my head “But he came round – and all three of them now love it.”
Visit Nicola’s Macmillan page .