Millions of people have seen Paparoa couple Colleen Taylor and Julie Harper share their moving story in a multi-media campaign to support Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand's Shave for a Cure.

They are among four Kiwi families shedding light on the reality of leukaemia and blood cancer, through television ads, social media videos, billboards and smaller posters in public and commercial places.

None of them are easy stories, but they are told with dignity, courage and love. And more than a little humour at times.

Taylor still laughs out loud about a male relative phoning her to say how surprised he was when he went to use a men's urinal in a big shopping mall and there was a poster of the two women on the wall.


Someone else phoned to say he'd seen them on a large billboard at the Auckland International Airport.

The campaign started in late February, in preparation for Shave for a Cure Week which starts on Monday.

The week will feature heads being made bald across the country as individuals, school groups, sports clubs, business houses take part in displays of solidarity with those for whom hair loss is a very visible, sometimes difficult sign of their illness.

Research and development as far as cures are likely to come too late for Taylor; they could be another generation or more away.

''It's not a disease that is curable.''

But the donations raised through Shave for a Cure go toward Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC) supporting people through treatments.

Six New Zealanders a day are diagnosed with a blood cancer, and the government doesn't fund LBC's work.

Taylor describes LBC, the Cancer Society and the facilities they offer for people who have to travel long distances for treatment as ''absolutely amazing''.


Taylor has lost her hair twice since being diagnosed in 2015 and treatment began for multiple myeloma, also known as plasma cell myeloma.

The first time was when she had a huge dose of chemo immediately before a harvest of her stem cells; the second time during another slamming dose when those stem cells were transplanted back into her body.

Harper has lost her hair twice too, to be ''with'' her partner of 21 years.

Here is part of the transcript of their story, as used in the Shave for a Cure campaign:

COLLEEN: Initially I had osteoporosis so I was in treatment for that, and then I had a fall and fractured my sternum. I said to my doctor "does this mean the medication I was taking isn't working?" and she said she'd do some tests to make sure there were no underlying problems, and it came back that yes, I did have multiple myelomas and needed a biopsy in July 2015.

JULIE: The thing that sticks out mainly for me is that I did my teacher training way back, decades ago, and at the time I'd just finished upgrading my degree. I was graduating that day so we were in Auckland when Colleen got the phone call but she didn't tell me until the following night after we'd got home – she'd known through all of my graduation and everything.

Knowing that she'd just had that news from the doctor and she didn't tell me for another 24 hours ...

COLLEEN: Well it was her day, not mine! Yeah, definitely not mine. We just did an awful lot of crying really. There was quite a lot of black humour.

JULIE: We were stunned mullets really for a while.

COLLEEN: Yeah, and because of where we live, we're 60km away from Whangārei, you don't have contact with other people quite as much as you probably do when you're in the city. So yeah, I got a biopsy then had to be referred to a haematologist from Auckland who travelled up here just for treatment.

My GP said there are treatments but it's not curable. Then it was like, 'let's get on to it'.

Now we're on this track or this 'journey' – the word 'journey' got used an awful lot. And without Julie's help it would have been a really, really lonely journey.

JULIE: Even though you're there on the journey at the time – you know, appointments and everything – you still feel useless. You can't do anything for the sickness bit, so [shaving] is one way of making sure that the work can carry on.

Everybody's working so hard to make sure treatments are available for Colleen and everybody else so that they can actually get that funding.

She's brave every minute of every day, it's just one thing that I can do to raise attention for it, really.

The whole hair thing for those treatments that Colleen had, she didn't lose her hair then. It was only when the big chemo guns came out that it came out before she had the stem cell transplant.

You know that hair loss is a possibility and you're prepared so you think 'it's just hair', but then it actually starts happening. When you first start seeing hair on a pillowcase … you can't explain it, you truly can't explain it.

COLLEEN: Yeah running your hand through your hair and coming away with a handful … it doesn't come out nicely. She shaved me so at least it was little!

JULIE: I think that whole strength of relationship and that journey together is important. Even though Colleen's got the illness and she's got to be brave every single second of every day, and, whoever's supporting someone living with cancer, they've still got to get up and go to work every day and everything along with it.

I've been hugely fortunate with teaching that I've been able to be there for every appointment. That small community support was huge too.

* Whangārei's Farmers store is hosting a Shave for a Cure event next week for staff and members of the public. Shave for a Cure is the Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand's signature fundraiser and anybody keen to go bald for the cause can do so at the Farmers store from 12 noon on March 21. Registrations can be made in advance at or a $20 donation to the foundation on the day.