"I hadn't thought of it before, but I knew it was time"

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We first met Jenny Bowring, Kate Moffatt, and Maureen Murphy last April when they participated in the second 2013 Newfoundland & Labrador Housing Corporation Shave for the Brave. They were a team who were inspired by the efforts put forth by their male colleagues and wanted to get in on the action. Since then, we have heard more and more about their incredible Shave stories, and they have granted us permission to share them with you!

Bowring was on vacation leading up to the men’s Shave, but she had received all the emails and updates on what they were doing. Somewhere between the rest and the inspiration, she started thinking about participating herself.

“I never thought about it before, but I knew it was time,” she said.

She kept it under her hat for a few days once she went back to work before bringing it up to anyone, and then approached about ten women to join her. “When I went around the second time, Maureen—I didn’t have the words out of my mouth and she was on board. Then Kate was very glad to come on board…and the other ladies became our Mane Mamas; they did everything to help us out and were amazing.”

Murphy echoes how easy it was for her to make the decision to participate. “[Jenny] said she needed a few strong women to step forward to shave their heads and challenge the men, and I said, ‘OK.’ I remember when my friend, Tanya, was diagnosed with cancer, and she was only 27 when she was diagnosed. I remember her losing her hair and she had no choice. I’ve always thought about doing it, and that’s why I said yes.”

Murphy, an only child, says her relationship with Tanya was like that of sisters. They grew up next door to one another and hopped the fence often enough that their fathers removed it altogether.

“She was a single mom, and she was dying. She had no friends who had been through this before. We had no idea what to do. Her friend group couldn’t get their heads wrapped around that this was going to happen, she had nobody her own age who had this experience, and she had no way of meeting someone her own age who was having this experience,” she said. “The only thing [we could do] was be there. We couldn’t even talk about it.”

Murphy says they tried to support Tanya by keeping things as normal as possible and staying hopeful, but her friend quickly changed from being a young, single woman to someone who grew up very quickly and worried about things like getting her estate in order and leaving her toddler to be raised by his grandparents. She later died on December 29, five days before her son’s fourth birthday.

“She has been talked about daily. His mom has been included in his life his whole life. Every year on her birthday, they go to the cemetery and lay flowers, and they celebrate that she was born. She’s a part of daily conversation, her pictures are always on the wall,” said Murphy, who still lives next to Tanya’s parents. “He’s a young man now who’s away working in Fort McMurray.”

Moffatt also has experienced what it’s like to support loved ones dealing with cancer, but says it was the knowledge of how people without hair can sometimes be treated in society that made it hit home for her. Her niece was diagnosed with leukemia when she was ten-years-old, and her sister-in-law often spoke of how people would avoid her because they didn’t want to have to talk about her daughter’s cancer.

“Acquaintances who didn’t know me would not speak with me because they thought I was ill,” she said. “I would never walk away from someone because my sister-in-law said it was hard to deal with cancer, and it was so difficult feeling so isolated.”

The Newfoundland & Labrador Housing Corporation Shavers certainly weren’t isolated during their Shave.

“We all enjoyed how it brought so many people here in the organization together. Our boardroom was just jam packed. It was amazing…I guess I was really surprised that some of the ladies actually couldn’t even stay, they were crying. It was just so overwhelming for them, so that was kind of interesting, too. I didn’t think it would strike people like that,” said Bowring.

Moffatt says the actual haircut was more of a shock than she expected, but it was a “wonderful experience.” “It brought all kinds of people together and it was a pretty intense experience for the people who were watching and the people who had their heads Shaved.”

“It was very exhilarating, but while my head was being Shaved, I was thinking, ‘Oh my God; what have I done?’ I went away a week later, I went to Europe on my trip of a lifetime, and in all my pictures, I have my head Shaved,” said Murphy.

One of their colleagues, Linda Delaney, is also a photographer, and she organized a photo shoot with the team after their event.

“We came in and got our makeup done—several of the girls downstairs helped us with our makeup—and we wore the dresses we wore on the day we had our heads Shaved. I brought feather boas in bright colours for each of us, and we had fancy earrings,” said Bowring.

Delaney then made a slideshow set to the music each Shaver played during their time in the barber chair.

The photos may serve as long-term reminders for the team, but Moffatt had another story to share that we’ll never forget.

She went to the bank shortly after her hair started growing back in, and the teller wasn’t convinced that the woman on the drivers license was the same woman who stood before her.

“I had to explain to her, ‘I don’t look the same because I Shaved for the Brave,” said Moffatt. “She looked to the manager and the manager came over. We chatted a little bit and the decision was made that they would let me take the money out, so I knew I had to get a new drivers license.

“While this was going on, a woman who was in the next wicket kept looking at me, and looking away. Looking at me, and looking away. When it was all over and they gave me my money and I walked away, she came over to me and said, ‘Tomorrow my daughter is leaving to attend [Young Adult Cancer Canada’s Retreat Yourself], and she’s so excited about her trip, and I can’t tell you what this means to her, so all I can say is thank you.’ She filled right up, and it was totally unexpected, and it was just one of those moments that you really connect with someone.”

She says she didn’t spend too much time speaking with the mother because by that time, anyone within earshot had stopped what they were doing to watch the display of gratitude, though she did think back to her sister-in-law. “All of those things played on my mind at the time for the woman, and I was thinking that she may have experienced what my sister-in-law experienced.”

The women hope even more of their colleagues will want to get involved in 2014, and there are even whispers of inviting the other regional offices.

“I have a few names on my list already of people I want to approach,” said Bowring. “I think they’d really get a lot out of it if they did…You really know what you did and what you’re doing is really helping someone.”

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Photo shoot by Linda Delaney

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Jenny Bowring, Maureen Murphy, and Kate Moffatt, November 2013

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