Buried away in a tiny mews in Brighton is a Queen with a wide, cheery smile and oodles of glitter. Known as Fizzy Snood on social media, Sara Cutting is very busy taking her post breast-cancer pledge - to wear a different item of headgear each day upon her shaved head - to "infinity and beyond!"
I met Sara in her flat to ask her about this unusual challenge which she does both to raise money for Macmillan and an awareness of breast cancer. Why keep her head shaved and pose for a smiley selfie (plus the much-loved obligatory rubbish joke) every day for ever and ever? And what or who is Fizzy Snood?
First things first, Sara explains that she once told her young niece that Snoods live behind yew trees at the end of gardens, and that Sara was, in fact, herself, the Queen of the Snoods. Sitting down on her sofa in a whirl of glitter dust, and with her beautiful uplifting smile firmly in place, I'm guessing her niece swallowed that one whole: Auntie Sara definitely looks the part.
In 2014 she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and had a lumpectomy with nipple and lymph removal. This left Sara with nerve damage to her right arm and lymphodema in the breast. She is in some degree of pain most of the time and has had to stop working at the building contractor company she previously ran with her partner.
Sara went though chemotherapy and radiotherapy and has nothing but praise for the NHS. To anyone who thinks differently she says, "Wait until you've got an aggressive tumour travelling through your body, and then slag off the NHS". She feels similarly about the Macmillan nurses who listened and supported her through the worst of times. So strongly does she feel that Fizzy Snood has become a spokesperson for the organisations she's grateful to (see her speak for junior doctors on Victoria Derbyshire's show here at 1 hour 9 minutes in), and is raising money in appreciation (donate to her Macmillan fund here). She's also an active and vocal supporter of assisted suicide.
When I ask about her head and the now famous headgear challenge, Sara becomes serious and explains the life lesson behind it.
"I used to have beautiful golden locks, and I was more scared of losing them through chemo than I was of the cancer. Lots of people think things like this but don't admit to them. I was terrified of losing my locks, and I suddenly realised that I was actually hiding behind my hair. I spontaneously went to the hairdresser and got a half-head-shaved cut, with the intention to get the rest done bit by bit. At that moment, with half my head shaved, I felt 'That's it! I'm back in control! Brilliant!' and soon I got the whole head shaved. I couldn't wait too long anyway because my hair was rapidly falling out."
What happened after that? What was it like to have a newly bald head?
"Well, then I was faced with the options of wigs and chemo hats".
I ask what a chemo hat is and Sara shows me a link to (click here) chemo head-gear. She tells me she was unimpressed by the scarves and head wraps - "They all made me look like I had cancer!" she laughs. So she decided to stay bald.
"If we lose our hair medically, one of the options should be "bald", but instead you're offered these things" she complains.
The experience reminds me that some women who undergo mastectomy are immediately offered reconstruction now or later, but are not always offered staying flat as an option.
Sara says that there is a 'shock' attached to seeing someone completely bald. "You look a bit alien" she says matter-of-factly. But, being a rebel, accepting that "the whole cancer experience is really shit", Sara rubbed fairy dust onto her bald head and decided she wouldn't be growing her locks back any time soon. Instead she would celebrate the shortest cut (she shaves her head once a week) and have some fun with it. "The cancer," she tells me, "has given me this attitude of 'I just don't give a shit'."
"I have a bit of a Buddhist outlook" she explains, "My baseline is that life is shit, so what are you gonna do about it? And my answer is the Daily Headgear Challenge. Fizzy Snood, born out of darkness. You can't have positive without negative and this gives me a reason to get up in the mornings, put on my make-up, smile and ask my followers to "Check their bits". A woman wrote in to me recently that her Dad has cancer and every day he waits for my photo and joke. It cheers him up. That's why I'm doing it".
I asked Sara whether she had a message for any Loose Debra followers who may have or have had breast cancer. She had five points to share.
1. Breast cancer upsets the apple cart for most women. It causes tremendous problems for the woman and the people around her who care for her. Take one day at a time, knowing there will be shit days.
2. Getting cancer is never 'your fault'. Don't feel guilty for having it. Seek out people around you who are loving and TALK. On the phone, face-to-face or in internet support groups. I talked a lot to the people at Macmillan.
3. Your cancer is your cancer. What you're experiencing is valid. Just because someone else has experienced it in a different way, remember that's their experience, not yours.
4. Be aware that everyone will want to tell you a cancer story once they know you have it, and some of their stories will be telling you someone's died of it. Stay away from these people, and be picky about who you talk to.
5. Now.....go check your bits!
This last one being Sara's catchphrase and hashtag, supporting and empowering other women.
Finally I took a picture of Sara in a headpiece especially lent to us for the day from bespoke milliners Lomax and Skinner of nearby Lewes. She looked stunning, and immediately took a selfie for the challenge, trying to think of a silly joke to compliment the elegant feathered creation.
"The humour is very important" she chuckled, "there's just so much serious stuff I'm involved in, what with the NHS debates, my support for assisted suicide, and encouraging people with lumps to go to the docs, that I have to have a laugh every day to keep going."
I know she'll find a good joke about butterflies or feathers to encourage her followers, and I'm just as sure that this glitter-dusted, effervescent Queen of the Snoods will always find a reason to smile.
Karen Dobres, Chief Freedom Fighter