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Gallery: Great Blakenham woman braves fundraising hair shave after combating breast cancer

PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 April 2015

Former cancer patient, Jo Whitelaw gets her head shaved in aid of Cancer Campaign in Suffolk. Pictured with hairdresser Elizabeth Clarke, Karen Hare of Cancer Campaign in Suffolk and grandchildren Kai, Emily and Max Beresford.

Former cancer patient, Jo Whitelaw gets her head shaved in aid of Cancer Campaign in Suffolk. Pictured with hairdresser Elizabeth Clarke, Karen Hare of Cancer Campaign in Suffolk and grandchildren Kai, Emily and Max Beresford.

A mother-of-two and survivor has lost her hair for the second time in celebration of being three years cancer free.

Jo Whitelaw, 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2012 – a diagnosis which started a long and arduous journey of treatment.

It came after she had a benign lump removed from her breast several years ago.

Jo, of Plummers Dell, Great Blakenham, said: “I went straight to the doctor, they then referred me to the hospital – I didn’t think it would be a tumour.

“At the hospital they said it was probably a cyst, but when I had the mammogram they said it was a different sort of texture and they took a sample from it and it came back as grade two cancer.”

The then 49-year-old had a lumpectomy, but when the results came back she was given the devastating news that cancer cells still remained, so she made the decision to have the whole breast removed.

Jo was also told that her cancer was HER2 positive, a protein that can affect the growth of some cancer cells, and meant the mother faced a gruelling year-long course of chemotherapy and the drug Herceptin to combat the disease.

Three years later and Jo, mum to Carly Whitelaw, 26, and Samantha Beresford, 32, and grandmother to Kai, 14, Emily, 10, and Max, four, is cancer-free.

“I still have bad days, I’m still frightened sometimes, but then most mornings I wake up and I think ‘I’m alive, I’m still here’,” she said.

“I enjoy my family and my grandchildren, I’m so very lucky to have them – so that makes a big difference.”

Jo, who lives with her 49-year-old husband, Nick, was formerly a beautician for Clinique and ran make-up sessions at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for breast cancer patients called Look Good Feel Better.

A year ago, realising that there was no such service for patients in Ipswich, she got in touch with Karen Hare, chief executive of Cancer Campaign in Suffolk, which provides support and complementary therapy before, during and after cancer.

The pair launched a monthly programme at Park View residential home, It’s All About You, which offers beauty workshops for people with a cancer diagnosis.

Mrs Hare said: “Jo is great, she helps everyone, she knows where they’ve been and she gives her time freely.

“She’s very aware of other people and of other people’s needs. For us she is invaluable.”

Jo, who works for Mencap, took the razor to her shoulder-length dark hair among her family at an International Women’s Health Awareness Event organised by the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group at Burlington Church Hall on Tuesday, and has so far raised £400.

“This time around I was glad I was shaving my hair. Last time was very emotional and I was frightened, I didn’t know which journey I was going to go down,” she said.

“I hope the money will go toward the treatments that we need so when my grandchildren are older there will be more and more cures.”

To donate, visit: www.justgiving.com/Jo-Whitelaw

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