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HELP!!! Two Barbers On A Mission To Raise: Money And Awareness, For Children With Eye Cancer…

Mike Taylor and Alison Scattergood on their very personal fight against a rare disease

 

When I met up with Alison Scattergood at Salon International in October, I was very moved by her story of losing an eye to retinoblastoma – a rare childhood cancer  – before going on to become a pioneering icon in barbering.  I was shocked that this extremely rare disease – there are only 50 cases a year reported in the UK –  had coincidentally affected a great friend of hers and fellow barbering legend Mike Taylor, founder of the British Barbers’ Association.   Mike’s 2-year old daughter was diagnosed with retinoblastoma earlier this year, and is undergoing treatment.

I immediately took advantage of the opportunity to put both Mike and Alison in the Takara Belmont interview chairs to talk about this sad coincidence, and they told me of a tiny, dedicated charity working to raise awareness of the disease, and of a massive awareness event Alison and Mike are planning for next May’s Barber UK in Birmingham. I was on board right away!

A MAJOR PLEA to Industry Influencers

But first, A MAJOR PLEA to all the INDUSTRY INFLUENCERS:  BARBERS and HAIRDRESSERS are needed to sign up as soon as possible for the Alison and Mike’s Barber UK event at Birmingham!  They need to plan and print promotional materials about who’s coming and they NEED YOUR SUPPORT!  Barber UK has offered them two massive stages, one for barbers and one for hairdressers, so they need artists and stars to help out by appearing. Won’t you do your part, too?   These two industry stalwarts need your support, so contact them and volunteer today!

Ok, on to the details of the story!

“I was diagnosed at 6 weeks and my left eye was removed surgically when I was ten weeks old,” Alison told me. For years she kept the condition private, but as she got to know the people at the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust charity, or CHECT, in London, she decided to be more forthcoming about it.

“I realized the mission is awareness and I could help,” she said.  “My story went massive on Facebook and I got so much response from families, even in America, who had children suffering from the same thing.”

“But I had never known anyone affected by it personally until Mike.”

“My daughter, she is only two, and obviously your world falls apart when you hear the news,” Mike said of daughter Alice’s diagnosis earlier this year. “You never figure it will happen that your child has cancer. Then I found out Alison was an ambassador for CHECT, and she has been so much help to my wife and me.”

“The chances are millions and millions to one that you would get two people who know each other that well, both affected by this incredibly rare disease,” Mike said.

“I was really shocked because we live just miles apart,” Alison recalls. “I was gobsmacked, really. But soon we started talking about getting Mike involved and helping CHECT.”

 

CHECT: a small charity with an important message

Alison calls CHECT a “tiny” charity that is chronically underfunded, though it has been working hard to raise awareness in the UK for 30 years. “The disease is just so rare,” she says. “CHECT can sometimes be overshadowed by bigger causes.”

“And being a guy, you want to do what you can to fix the (cancer) situation, but you can’t fix it,” Mike chimed in. “But one thing I have the power to do is to help CHECT, because it is a very small charity.”

Next May’s event in Birmingham will help raise awareness, which is crucial even among doctors.  The disease easily slips by medical professionals who often have no experience with rare childhood eye cancers.

“Alice was checked quite a few times by doctors and even a specialist and they never even saw it,” Mike told me.  “The eye specialist who found it told me it was the second one he had ever seen in his whole career. Most doctors will never see one in their entire career.”

In fact, Mike said he and his wife as well as nursery workers noticed little Alice squinting regularly, but doctors were not initially concerned.

He recalls:  “We knew it was a massive problem when my wife said, ‘Alice can’t see out of one eye, I am sure of it.’ So we played pirate with her and when we put the patch over the good eye, she started walking into walls. She was blind. And that was when we knew, ‘This is not a squint. Our daughter is blind in one eye.’”

Helping Mike and Alison make the 2018 Barber UK stage shows a SUCCESS!

The pair have arranged for two massive stages at Birmingham NEC during Barber UK on May 20 and 21, 2018, one for barbering and one for hair. The goal is to get as many big-name hairdressers and barbers to come and do shows, attracting good-sized crowds who want to see their work.  “Everyone is welcome,” Mike says. “We want to get as many brands on board to shout from the rooftops about CHECT and this type of cancer.”

The pair plan on-site raffles with brand support, “smaller ones leading up to a big-brand main prize,” Mike says.

“It’s such a fantastic venue, huge place, it’s such an opportunity we’ve been given and we need the help of our friends in the business to make it a big success,” Alison said.

 

They are working out fresh ideas to market the event and promote awareness. One such is asking barbers and hairdressers to wear an eye patch on the job to spark conversation during CHECT week, which coincides with Barber UK 2018.  “We’re open,” Mike says. “Perhaps you can get something started in your town or shop, or contribute a ideas.”

 Retinoblastoma signs and symptoms

So what should parents and doctors be looking for?

“A squint is one of the symptoms,” Alison said. “If you look at a picture with a flash, sometime the pupils will look white. That it is not always retinoblastoma, but that is one of the symptoms.”

“Also in certain light the pupil can look translucent, like a cat’s eye,” she said.

Retinoblastoma symptoms can also include the following, though these symptoms can easily be caused by conditions other than cancer:

  • A different color in each iris (the colored part of the eye)
  • Eyes do not appear to be looking in the same direction
  • Redness or swelling of the eye

“It needs to be caught early,” Alison added, emphasizing the need for awareness. “It has a massive survival rate but if you don’t catch it in time, it can obviously lead to being fatal.”

As for little Alice, Mike says after her diagnosis in March she began chemotherapy, which is finishing up now. “She has a 50-50 chance of keeping her eye, though she has already lost sight in it,” he said.

“What Alison has done with her career is such a good example for Alice and others,” Mike said. “I can tell my daughter this is not the end of the line. She will go on to fulfill her dreams.”

You can help fulfill the dream of a hugely successful Barber UK CHECT event by getting on board early and contacting Alison or Mike today.  Mike is easy to find through miketayloreducation.com and Alison recommends contacting her through East Durham College, where she is a well-known lecturer.

It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us in the industry to rally round two of our well-known people and support their fantastic cause: raising awareness of childhood eye cancers and promoting early detection.

Let’s make it happen and ‘til next time, happy barbering!

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From Eye Cancer Survivor to Master Barber: The Unique Life of Alison Scattergood

I love Salon International for any number of reasons, but one is the chance to catch up with people I hear about more often than I see. East Durham College’s Alison Scattergood is one of those. The Peterlee educator is well known for her master-level barbering, work with young people, advocating for more regulation of barbering and more recently, as a survivor of childhood eye cancer and an advocate for research into this dangerous disease.

Clearly, we had a lot to talk about.

I learned Alison discovered both men’s hair and education while very young, working as a hairdresser for men and women from 16, and getting qualified to teach at 21.

“Barbering is my baby now,” she says with a smile. “I’ve got many students, and I coordinate all the level two and level three barber courses at EDC. I also work at a barbershop in Durham City on the weekend, because if you are teaching, it is really important to be in the industry. It is a good balance to see both sides of the job.”

Her work with young students has led Alison to her strong views on standards.

“If you are a nurse you give injections and things like that, and you have to be on a register,” she told me. “Even a taxi driver needs a license.”

“With barbering, you work with open blade razors, you are doing hot towel shaves,” she points out.

“There are amazing shop-floor trained barbers out there who are really good, yet don’t have official qualifications,” she adds. “But I know some that are not (so good), and I thing that needs to be policed.”

It’s a point I grasp readily. After all, an unregulated builder may wreck your home, but a poorly trained or unsupervised barber can jeopardize your health and even your life.

“If you had an electrician or a plumber doing your stuff, it would scare me if they had no qualifications at all,” Alison agreed. “So I think it should be regulated if you are using razors on members of the public. I believe the industry needs it. “

“We are attracting over 35,000 people (to barbering) and to think that is still isn’t standardized is quite bizarre to me. That is why I push with the Barber Council, with the government, that is where we should be headed.”

In addition to representing education on the Barber Council, Alison is also hard at work with the City and Guilds, working on TechBac programs. Through EDC, her students earn a City and Guilds certificate attesting that they have passed and can earn a Barber Council certificate of registration as well.

“It is exposing the Council to students and I tell them all the time how important it is,” she said. “They are surprised to find out there is no legislation, so I tell them how important it is to be registered.”

“It’s all because clients come first,” she told me firmly. “If they walk into the salon and see their stylist, their barber is registered and you display the certificate, that’s really important and what I want to get over to my students.”

I am very proud to be consultant with City and Guilds and work on TechBac qualifications, working on grading criteria for apprenticeships,” she says. “I contribute to the latest textbooks, with a write-up on the latest level two about the industry and how to work toward what you want to be in life.”

Alison’s connection with City and Guilds is key and could have a big impact on the future of barbering education. She told me Adam Sloan, the Chairman of the City and Guilds Barbering Industry Board, deserves a lot of the credit.

“There has been a Hairdressing Industry Board for quite a few years, but there hadn’t been a barbering one, so Adam really pushed for that,” she recalls. “He got it set up, and then a year and half or two years ago he invited me on, representing education.”

“It is important to try to raise the standards, where students come out of college with the best,” she explained. “Colleges get knocked in the industry because some colleges don’t train to a great standard. I want to raise that for all colleges.”

Whew! If you get tired out listening to all that Alison’s involved in, she’s also finds time to help her students with competitions, enter a few herself, and pick up some prestigious recognition. A highlight of her year is membership in the Fellowship for British Hairdressing, the leading body in hairdressing. “They’d never had an education slot on stage” before inviting her back for membership, she told me.

Other recent highlights: she was in the boxing ring at the Barber Connect finals at Celtic Manor in 2014, was a finalist for Wahl Barber of the Year at Salon International a few years ago, and in 2015, became the first woman to be made a British Masters Barber by the British Master Barbers Alliance.

“(Nationally-known Master Barber) Chris Moon was coming to EDC one night to visit with our students and surprised me with the plaque,” she recalls. “It was such a shock, I didn’t have a clue! It was really nice, for my contributions to barbering from Antony and Toni Copeland. It’s mounted on the college salon wall!”

But she was most excited about bringing her students down to London for Salon. “I bring students to be models because the college can’t pay for professionals, and it’s brilliant because it gives the students an amazing Salon experience and they see thing from both sides. We rehearsed and rehearsed and got really good feedback when we came off stage, so we feel really good.”

I couldn’t let Alison go before learning more about her recent work with the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, or CHECT. She told me she lost her left eye to cancer (retinoblastoma) at just 10 weeks old, and for years tried her best to keep it from everyone except those closest to her.

“I wanted to be known for my work, not for having lost an eye to cancer,” she said. But her behind the scenes work with CHECT persuaded her to speak openly.

“It went massive on Facebook and I got so much response from families even in America who had children suffering from the same retinoblastoma, and it helps them to see somebody able to do what I’ve done with my career because their kids’ are still quite young and they aren’t sure what the future holds for them.”

To her great surprise, Alison’s friend Mike Taylor, co-founder of the BBA and fellow member of the Barber Council, revealed that his young daughter is fighting eye cancer.

“When Mike contacted me about his daughter,” she shakes her head as if still surprised, “I had never met anyone else who had it. It is such a rare form of cancer.”

“We decided to work together to raise awareness and money and help CHECT, because it is such a small charity,” she continued. “Having so many friends and colleagues in the same industry, it is a no-brainer to do something together, and we plan on doing it next year.”

Just add that to the list of things to do for this amazing educator and passionate barbering industry advocate. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to meet Alison, and I hope you have to. If you are interested in helping with CHECT, just reach out to Alison or visit the charity’s web site, https://chect.org.uk/

or contact Alison direct:

Alison.scattergood@eastdurham.ac.uk
Instagram: Alison Scattergood1
Facebook:  Alison Scattergood
Twitter: alisonscat@38


 

‘Til next time, happy barbering!

 

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