Liz Shaves Her Head for Children’s Cancer

This is Liz. You know Liz. Liz that writes Ask Team Practical every Thursday. Liz who just gave you advice on engagement rings this morning. Liz who writes at Happy Sighs. Awesome APW staffer Liz. Amazing feminist Liz.

Looking at this picture of Liz, I bet you’re saying to yourself, “Hot damn, Liz is beautiful.” And she is. But how much of your reaction to Liz’s beauty has to do with the fact that her face is framed by super long and wavy hair? If I were to be honest, I’d tell you that Liz’s hair plays into the way I react when I see a picture of her. Why? Because I’ve been socialized to think of long hair as feminine and beautiful. Hell. Other than a few ill-advised bobs in the late 80s (I have thick wavy hair, why did anyone let me do that to myself?), I’ve always had long hair. I insisted on growing out my hair around the time I learned to talk, and that was that. It’s easy for us to associate hair with women’s beauty, because our whole culture does it.

Tomorrow, Liz is going to find out how much value the world gives to a woman’s hair. Tomorrow Liz shaves her head.

Liz is shaving her head to raise money for St. Baldrick’s, which funds childhood cancer research. Kids with cancer have forever altered the course of some APW staffers lives, and there is a huge funding gap when it comes to cancer research. As a new mother who’s had health scares, this St. Baldrick’s page made my breath catch and tears well up in my eyes. The average age of diagnosis for adult cancer: sixty-seven. The average age of diagnosis for children’s cancer: six. Children who die of cancer loose an average of seventy-one years of their lives. But all types of childhood cancer combined receive only four percent of federal funding for cancer research.

So tomorrow, Liz shaves her head in an effort to raise $2,000 for cancer research, and then she’s donating her hair to make wigs for women with cancer. She said in her original blog post about it, “Cancer is such a big word, I don’t know that I ever allow myself to fully think about the dark enormity of it. But, not having control over the way you look and feel about yourself is something I can grasp. These small ones who are undergoing treatments have a whole range of giant concerns that I can’t fathom, and having no control over the way they look and feel about themselves is just the smallest tip of the iceberg.”

When I heard that Liz was doing this, my first reaction was, “Liz is such a bad ass. I could never do something like that.” Which is such an easy way out, right? But it turns out, Liz is terrified. Well, she’s terrified but thought that sounded too negative, so suggested maybe she was “excitriffied” or “overwhelmed.” Liz isn’t doing this because she’s braver than the rest of us, Liz is doing this because she’s scared. She told me yesterday, “Two years ago, when I first went to support a friend at a St. Baldrick’s event, I noticed that while there were dozens of people going up, one after the other, to shave heads and beards and mustaches, there were hardly any women. And I grew indignant! And then, I realized that it made sense, because I completely would not be willing to shave my head, charity or no. That’s… well, no. Don’t they hold walks for that sort of thing? I’m terrified of shaving my head. I’m afraid of how I’ll feel about myself, how people will look at me and treat me, and yeah, it all makes me feel sort of shallow and self-interested to admit that. But, I guess that’s sort of the point of helping one another. If I only gave what didn’t hurt, it wouldn’t be very giving at all, would it? Facing this one small kind of fear helps children who are also facing it, but in addition to a whole ton of other scarier, darker fears. When I think of it that way, it’s not very hard, after all.”

Because Liz is doing something scary and brave, the APW staff and APW readers close to Liz have stepped up to try to support her as best as they can. Maddie pointed out that Liz’s donation page reads like a who’s who of the APW community. I can count about fifteen donors who have written wedding graduate posts, and that’s just people whose first and last names I know.

So this is where you come in. Liz hasn’t made her $2,000 goal yet, and we’d really like her to surpass it. If you have something you can donate (and yes, $1, or $5, or $10 totally counts), please consider giving it here. But regardless of if you can donate finanically or not, please consider supporting Liz with some words of encouragement in the comments. I’d love if she felt the support of this community as she does this scary thing tomorrow.

Here is to you Liz! You are continually an inspiration to all of us at APW (not to mention being one of the funniest, gustiest, and kindest people we know).

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  • CBM

    Go Liz! I have always wanted to do this too. Natalie Portman was still hot with a shaved head and I’m sure you will pull it off beautifully as well!

  • carrie

    Amazing! I donated an 8 inch ponytail once, but it’s not the same, because I still had long-ish hair. I have few words other than amazing and I have so much respect for this. Hair will grow back for most of us. But cancer doesn’t just fade away for far too many people. The older I get (mid-30s sage here), the more I think about the impermanence of life and how precious so many things really are. I believe so much in research, in science. This is a cause easy to support.

    Liz, you are beautiful. With your hair. Without it. But inside, where it really counts. Thank you.

    • Emma

      I also donated a ponytail (it was 11″, I think) a few years ago but as you say, it doesn’t compare. I’m so impressed that you’re doing this, Liz. Incredible stuff.

      P.S. When I went to donate I saw that you’re over $2100! Congratulations! I donated anyway, I hope that’s ok.

      • meg

        Of course it’s ok!! We want Liz to raise ALL the monies for kids cancer research.

  • Rachelle

    One of my co-workers shaved her head for St. Baldrick’s last year and she looked completely gorgeous. She even kept it as a pixie for a long time afterwards because she liked it so much. The only negative from her perspective was the fact that if she wore a scarf or hat, people would automatically asume she was a cancer patient and would be too afraid to ask her about it. People just gave her a sad, pitiful look.

    I’m sure you will be beautiful even without hair! Terrified, scared, however you feel, you rock!

  • Sheila

    Liz – the first thing I noticed in your picture was not your hair, but your gorgeous eyes instead. And just think – without all that long hair, your eyes will be even more noticeable! So I’m sure you’ll still be beautiful. Thank you for doing this on behalf of all of us who hope our children never have to face a cancer diagnosis or other scary illnesses.

  • Rose

    Go Liz go! I just did a story on a college student who also shaved her head for St. Baldrick’s. There’s a photo here that shows how she totally rocked the bald look:

  • kyley

    What you had to say, about giving when it hurts, made me cry at my desk. I don’t feel very articulate at the moment, so I will just say thank you, thank you, thank you and go donate.

    This is a very special community.

  • Ali

    Thank you, Liz. What an amazing thing you are doing. I can’t imagine a more beautiful act. I’m sitting here bawling at my desk right now and hating childhood cancer with every piece of myself. My cousin (though more like a sister) died at 21 just over a year ago of rhabdomayosarcoma. She fought it for over 5 years with radiation, multiple rounds of chemo, and all kinds of alternative therapies as it came back time and time again popping up in different areas of her body like a game of whack-a-mole. The survival rates for childhood cancers are just appalling and it doesn’t get near the publicity or outrage it deserves. Thank you and the APW team for supporting such a great cause. Donating now. xoxo

  • It’s been almost ten years now that I was very nearly bald because of interferon treatments for skin cancer, and Liz, you are so allowed to feel all of the above feelings and more. However, hair or not, you are awesome, brave, and ridiculously good looking.

    Also, I helped alleviate my baldness fears by putting up a slightly stalker-sized photo collage of Tilda Swinton and stealing a lot of her hairstyles as mine grew back in. So you’re welcome to steal that idea, and watch the head-shaving scene from G.I. Jane to psyche yourself up. Because you’re a badass, and super cool for doing this.

  • Audrey

    Liz, you rock.

    I shaved my head years ago, on board ship, and sent all my hair to locks for love so a child with cancer could have a wig. British naval tradition dictates that you shave your head when you cross the equator for the first time. (I was on semester at sea). Who was I to argue? When else was I going to shave my head, but in college. I am so happy I did it once.

    So now is my short list of great things that can happen when you shave your head:

    1) it takes very little time to get ready in the morning.
    2) you shave tons of money on shampoo.(and spend it later on product, see number 3)
    3) you can take so many risks while growing it out, because it’s so short it doesn’t matter, mistakes grow out fast.. (bleach it! dye it! spike it! try some crazy fashion magazine-y cut!)
    3) earings. Take this time to invest in lots of amazing earings.
    4) scarves. (ditto)
    5) go get hot and sweaty and dirty, and then rinse out your hair in the sink and keep going.
    6) Remember how awesome it is that you are helping brighten someone’s day with a beautiful wig to wear while they in the middle of a fight for their lives.

    Thank you for your commitment! XO

    • This, this, this. I shaved my head once and have had buzz cuts twice (less than 1 inch, some people considered this “bald”, although I didn’t). I can tell you right now, short hair is addicting! It’s fantastic having shorter showers, and the way it feels when it starts to grow back in – like petting a horse’s soft, velvety muzzle. It’s fantastic! My one other tip would be that this is the time to experiment with crazy, bright eye makeup. Big dangly earrings and fantastic eyeshadow were my keys to rocking baldness. You are so brave – good luck!

    • Katherine

      Exactly what Audrey said, LOL. It takes no time to get ready in the morning, there’s lots of pretty earrings you can rock, and (I’m serious about this one) it will take a LOT less time than you think for it to grow back out. Mine took a little over a year to reach my shoulders again….I was pretty amazed at how little time it took.

      Your courage speaks volumes, Liz. I’ll be cheering you on tomorrow!

  • Michelle

    Go girl! You aren’t alone!!

    I just read on another blog about another woman doing this and I liked her take on being scared but looking forward to learning from the experience to help her better interact with patients. YOU ROCK GIRL!


    Liz, you are so awesome & brave!

    Confession: I wear my hair very long. Very, very long. Not quite Pentecostal-lady long (I can’t sit on it) but nearly that long. And it is very tied up with my feeling of femininity. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been overweight and, other than large breasts and hips, have never had the other markers of traditionally feminine bodies… the slim wrists and fingers, the small legs that look so cute when crossed, the slightly-showing collarbone, etc. On my bad days, I feel like my hair is the only thing I have going for me. I am very, very vain about it. And I know that I do not have it within myself to do what Liz is doing, no matter the cause.

    • GA

      Totally feel ya. It’s horrible to admit, but I was always the same way. I had people tell me that I was “still strangely attractive for an overweight girl” when I was younger, and paired with EVERYONE (I mean absolutely everyone) telling me how beautiful my hair was ALL the time–several times daily–I become very protective of it, and came to think of it as my only attractive trait. I spend a lot of money on shampoo and I never, ever color it or do anything to it that might dull its shine or hide its beauty. After all these years, it’s like my lifeline sometimes… It’s strange to realize someone else feels the same way! You describe the feelings so lucidly, and so freaking accurately.

      • KC

        Amy, from Little Women, when Jo has just cut her hair off so she can get money (for, again, an excellent cause):
        “Oh, Jo! Your one beauty!”

        I think you’ve got some company throughout the ages. :-)

    • Caroline

      Yeah, me too. I wear my hair long (it was down to my butt, but because since I couldn’t afford trims very often, the ends got bad and I cut it off to about 3 inches below my breasts.), and it’s so much a part of how I feel beautiful and sexy. In fact, it’s about the determining factor in what makes me feel sexy or not, pretty or not. I just couldn’t do it. I struggle enough with body image lately, and my hair is the thing that makes me feel good about my looks.

  • I wish I could give a bazillion dollars! You will still be gorgeous and you are extra super brave!

  • KateM

    Thanks for doing what so few of us have the courage to do. S

  • KateM

    Thanks for doing what so few of us have the courage to do.

  • dawn

    I wish you the best in this brave and generous adventure, Liz.

    Maybe this could lead to a piece in APW about how the idea of long hair as beautiful and feminine relates to race.

    • meg

      I would love to have a piece like that on the site, though obviously I can’t write it. Wanna nominate yourself?

  • Way to go Liz! I’ve chopped off my hair to donate but never something so brave as shaved. Everytime I’ve seen a bare head on a woman though I’ve thought they were gorgeous and I’m sure you’ll be no exception.

  • Ashleyn

    This just made me tear up. Liz, you are so brave and amazing. I don’t know if I could ever have the guts to do something like this. You will look gorgeous, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find out you love it.

    Also, as someone who’s experimented with her hair, I have to second the earrings comment above. Earrings, girl. Go to Forever 21 and go nuts buying all sorts of awesome huge earrings!

  • Liz

    All of these comments and donations are so encouraging! Thank you so much, guys!

  • I’ve had a pixie off and on for 7 years. I’ve never grown it back out past my chin because it’s heavy and I hate that people believe I need long hair. My husband loves it short, and so do I. I’ve never shaved it, but for something like this, I’d be tempted. More than name changing, more than gender roles, the issue that really gets me upset is that “women are more beautiful with long hair”. (Truth. I’ve had people tell me that I’d be ‘prettier’ if I had more hair.) Also, check out Anne Hathaway and Emma Watson for some sexy lady photos of short hair.

    Good luck Liz. You’ll rock it, I know.

    • Parsley

      Yes to the heavy thing! When I cut off my hair again after growing it out for my wedding, I lost 5 pounds. That’s 5 pounds of just hair!

      • One More Sara

        I just noticed this morning in the shower how heavy my hair has gotten. It’s unreal.

  • Jessica

    Woohoo, go Liz!

  • My “website” link is actually a picture of my before and after one of the three times I shaved my head. I found that I loved my hair extremely short because of everything Audrey wrote + how many times people offered “scalp massages” as a way to feel my soft hair. I shaved it every time my grandmother started a new round of chemo as long as it was a good length to donate. Who knows… you may never want long hair again. :) Have a blessed journey and enjoy all the scalp massages.

  • Brave woman Liz!

    I’ve actually been planning to do this myself for a while now… my hair is down to my waist at the moment so I’m waiting a couple of years, but then it’s all coming off! Good luck to you and may I just add, you will be absolutely stunning, hair or no hair.

  • Liz, it’s wonderful that you’re doing this, despite the fear! I’ve seen cancer touch way too many people I love and have loved, so it’s great to see how many people care about raising funds to help. I think you’re going to be beautiful with a shaved head. You have a stunning bone structure!

  • I think this is freaking amazing. You go, Liz!

  • js

    You are an inspiration to a whole community of bad ass women. My cousin has bone cancer, my friends mom has breast cancer and I am in the beginning stages of cervical cancer myself. We are not children but from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for standing up and doing something awesome for the ones who sometimes have the smallest voice. I hope my friends, family and myself continue to be as brave as you.

  • Lauren

    St. Baldrick’s is awesome! Maybe one day I’ll be as brave as Liz. Plus, short hair is totally cute!

  • Done! Ha cha cha for short hair and baldness and bravery!

  • Liz you are amazing and an inspiration.
    You will be beautiful, as you are :),beauty is in the eyes, in your smile, in your kindness. In your courage. We are right there with you.

  • Liz. You are SO fabulous. Fist bump! You’re going to rock the bald just as well as you’re rockin’ your lovely locks in that picture up there.

  • Dianne

    As someone who is currently in her third round of “bald is beautiful” due to my own ongoing treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, I say YOU ROCK. During my first time being bald I was still working in PR for public schools, so I had to do some on camera television interviews bald as could be – that was interesting. Also I got chatted up by men pretty often … I figured either men are attracted to bald women OR they were thinking I was dying and they wanted to get in on the life insurance. ;-) This didn’t really happen during round 2 – I’d gotten married since round 1 and was a few years older. And so far with round 3, I am not allowed to be out in crowds so the only place I am seen is at City of Hope and they are pretty used to this look there! All this is to say that having no hair lets your inner beauty and loving kindness shine even more brightly – Liz, you will be stunning.

  • Liz, you fucking rock.

    My friend Stephen died when we were 11, of the leukemia he had been battling since he was 4. We were pre-k friends, so I remember the day he came to school and told us that he had cancer just as well as I remember the day, too few years later, when we showed up at school to be told he’d never be coming back.

    I’m so glad to see you raising money and sacrificing a part of yourself so that, someday, there aren’t any kids who get told that their friend isn’t coming back to school.

  • Go Liz!!! We’re all so proud of and inspired by you here :) Many have asked me if I have ever thought about donating my long, lovely locks and I’ve always passed on the opportunity…because it’s scary! And I love my hair! You may have inspired me to think about it more seriously in the future though…

  • JES

    Way to go Liz! You are an inspiration and a rock star!! My hat’s off to you, sister…

  • Hannah

    This is so awesome Liz!! I’ve always been amazed at the women who were brave enough to do St Baldricks! I don’t know if I could do it, and it’s just shaving your head for charity…to imagine what it would feel like to lose your hair because of chemo, or watch it happen to your child or sibling….I can’t even imagine. Thank you for being so inspirational!

  • When I looked at that picture of Liz, I noticed her eyes first, and then that fantastic dimple. The bald look will only accentuate those features, and I bet she’ll look awesome. And even if she ends up not liking her new ‘do, that’s the cool thing about hair – it grows back.

  • I’ve donated to Pantene Beautiful Lengths twice now and will do it again and again for as long as I can. It’s a small thing I can do. Because Cancer sucks.

    My mom once told a pediatric oncologist we knew that she hoped he’d be unemployed some day. He seemed a bit shocked until she explained that would mean no more children were getting Cancer. And he quietly said he hoped to be out of work too.

    Go You! I admire your bravery!

    • I’m a veterinarian and used to work in an emergency clinic. I always used to tell my clients, “You and your [dog/cat] are both wonderful, and I hope I never see you again.” I caught a couple off guard, but everyone eventually realized what I meant. For a doctor, going out of business due to lack of disease is never a bad thing!

  • Laura K.

    Liz, you are awesome. I literally just got back from the Atlanta St. Baldrick’s event, where my boyfriend had his head shaved. You are an inspiration to us all, and actually have me pondering doing this event someday. Maybe next year.

  • Steffanyf

    Hell. Yes. You are fantastic Ms. Liz!

  • AutumnE

    Trust me, shaving your head makes you feel like a total badass. Shaving your head for kids with cancer, actually makes you one. Plus short hair and spring and summer breeze on your exposed head . . .awesome feeling.

  • Aileen

    That’s awesome! I’ve been thinking about shaving my head for a while now. Because I am more than my hair, my hair does not define me no matter what society thinks.

  • Rosie

    You’ve raised an amazing amount Liz! You’re awesome :)

  • TS

    This is awesome! As someone who’s been on the receiving end of St. Baldrick’s funds (for research to improve health and quality of life for childhood cancer survivors), I just wanted to say a massive “Thank you”!

  • April

    You’re amazing, Liz. XOXO

  • ItsyBitsy

    Girl. I am sending you internet hugs and high fives.

  • Class of 1980

    I’m a day late, but not a dollar short since I donated.

    You go girl.

    • Buttcheeks


  • Anonymous

    So, this comment is like a year late m, but I need someone’s advice. My mom won’t let me shave my head, I don’t even know why, but how do I convince too let me do it? It means so much to me, and I won’t give up. Please help!