A woman battling breast cancer said it was hard to hold back the tears yesterday when nine friends shaved their heads alongside her at a fundraising event.

About 160 people came together at Meanee Pub, in support of Tania Whanau, who has had a 22mm lump and 34 lymph nodes removed, undergone a double mastectomy, and now requires chemotherapy and radiotherapy, after being diagnosed in February.

"Having that turnout was mind blowing," she said. "There were people from all over New Zealand. I felt the love from all those people."

When Ms Whanau organised the event she planned to shave her head with just two friends.


"As soon as they found out I had breast cancer they put their hands up. They said 'if you lose your hair, we'll shave our heads too'," she said.

However, she received "phone call after phone call" from people who wanted to shave their heads in support of her, and when they did yesterday they raised $3000.

The money would help the single mother, who stopped working recently, to cover her everyday costs, and help "with the little bits and pieces". These included physiotherapy, osteopath appointments, massages, and buying a nutri-bullet so she could eat and drink after chemotherapy.

However, the day was not just about her - about 110 people paid to attend a breakfast "before the shaves", with proceeds going to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.

During the meal $6000 worth of prizes were given away, which Ms Whanau said had been donated by local businesses "who didn't hesitate to support me".

"I felt like Father Christmas," she said.

The event was also an opportunity to raise awareness about the disease, which Ms Whanau said was not something spoken about in the Maori community.

"I would hate for anyone to go through the experience I am, and I'm only at the start of my journey," she said. "If I can save someone's life it's all worth it then. I'm one of the lucky ones, I get to live another day."

She also wanted to point out that men could also be affected by the disease, which was illustrated by two men who took up Ms Whanau's challenge to shave their heads alongside her.

?To donate to Ms Whanau visit givealittle.co.nz/cause/fightbreastcancerlikeabitch.