A scientist who nicknamed herself Dr Potato Head after cutting off all her hair has raised more than £5,000 for the charity that has supported her family through cancer.
Katie Askew had her head shaved to raise money for FORCE Cancer Charity.
Mum Sharon Stickland from Newton Poppleford has used FORCE since she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2016.
“FORCE have supported my mum whilst she has undergone two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy,” said Katie.
“They provide advice, care and support to cancer patients and their families in Devon and all their amazing services are completely free.
“As a family, we are so grateful for their support and my mum’s treatment journey would have been much more difficult without them.”
Katie, 28, had been growing her hair since 2012. Before she had her head shaved, her locks were sectioned into 11 ponytails, the longest 42 centimetres, the shortest 25.
It was all donated to the Little Princess Trust, which provides free real hair wigs to children and young people who have lost their hair to cancer treatment.
“As a family, we know first-hand how much access to a properly-fitted, real hair wig can help boost self-esteem and so I’d love to provide my hair to help out someone in need,” said Katie.
She shaved her head partially 11 years ago and discovered: “When I had a Mohican at 17, mMy head looked like a potato with cress growing out of it.
“It is very much potato-shaped so the only appropriate name to adopt for this process is Dr Potato Head.
“I’ve also learnt that I have a very small head and need a child’s size in hats!
“I’m enjoying not having to deal with all that hair, particularly in the heat and not spending so long drying it.
“If you want to do something to make a difference for a charity, I’d recommend it.”
After two years living and working as a research scientist in Scotland, Katie is now based just outside London.
She previously worked in dementia research and is now with the MS Society, tracking the progress of grants.
Her background in science has helped her support the family after mum Sharon was diagnosed with cancer twice in five years.
“Mum brings all the documents for me to look at so I can reassure her,” said Katie.
“When she found another small lump just before Christmas and needed chemo I thought, if you’re going to lose your hair, I’ll shave mine.
“I wanted to give back to FORCE and so she wouldn’t be the only person in the family with no hair.”
Katie came to Devon, where mum lives with husband Rob, for the head shave and a visit to FORCE to see where the money she has raised – £4,670.01 plus £1,035.25 in Gift Aid – will be spent.
As well as support and advice, her parents have had complementary therapies plus help with skincare and haircare.
“We are really grateful to FORCE,” said Katie. “We have had other family members that have gone through cancer treatment and seen the disparity in what they and mum have been able to access.
“It makes such a difference to the quality of life if you have access to those facilities.
“Every time Mum comes back from FORCE she lights up when she talks about it. It’s had a lasting impact on her from the word go.
“It’s good for me to know that mum is in such good hands when I can’t be there.
“And it’s great that there’s been good, consistent support in place. The team at the RD&E are fantastic but the pastoral support FORCE provides is so important.
“It’s vital for people who don’t have family close by to have someone to talk to. We’re really lucky to have FORCE.”
You can donate to Dr Potato Head’s fundraising for FORCE via justgiving.com/fundraising/DrPotatoHead