Hayden and Amanda Webb with their two children Amity, 6, and Estelle, 4. Picture: Tony Martin
Hayden and Amanda Webb with their two children Amity, 6, and Estelle, 4. Picture: Tony Martin

Young family spared ‘financial ruin’ after shock diagnosis

IT WAS meant to be a celebratory family trip to Airlie Beach.

Hayden Webb was in prime health, eagerly preparing to enjoy his 30th birthday with his wife Amanda and two young daughters.

He began feeling some pain in his chest - nothing more than the flu, he thought - only to discover a lump in his chest "the size of an orange".

Not long after, he was diagnosed with leukaemia and a 10-month stay in Townsville for treatment awaited.

At the time, Mr Webb's children - Amity and Estelle - were only two years and five months old respectively.

"We always said the only reason we survived and made it through was because of the kids - they make it harder but they make it easier," Mrs Webb said.

"He would be at his absolute lowest but then as soon as the kids walked in it would instantly bring him up.

"It works both ways I guess," Mr Webb continued, "you think you're not being there for them but then they keep you going at the same time."

Not only were the family's health burdens daunting but the financial strain was going to be a big factor, given Mr Webb's inability to work during his treatment.

That is where the Leukaemia Foundation came to the fore.

The foundation provided the family with accommodation during their 10-month Townsville stint - a two-bedroom unit they did not have to pay a cent for.

Social workers and carers were also onsite, but crucially the family were able to be with other families who were enduring the same battles.

Hayden and Amanda Webb. Picture: Tony Martin
Hayden and Amanda Webb. Picture: Tony Martin

Mrs Webb said having that network around them ensured the family could completely focus on Hayden's recovery.

"It's hard having a two year old and a five month old in general, but then to take you out and put you in that situation where your family is back in Mackay is very difficult," she said.

"When you have cancer you feel very much alone. But (they made us feel) we weren't alone and that we were in a community.

"There were 18 or 20 units in Townsville and everybody has their own story but everybody understands what you're going through."

The gratitude the Webb family have for what the Leukaemia Foundation has done for them is immeasurable.

It has inspired Mr Webb, who is now in remission, to share his story.

This year the foundation hopes to raise $16.5 million through the initiative to fund support services to those suffering from a host of blood cancers.

Such was the support they received from the cause, Mr and Mrs Webb are encouraging as many people as possible to get behind the shave this year.

"It was how much they've helped us and saved us from having to sell our house," Mr Webb said.

"Without them," Mrs Webb followed, "we would have been financially ruined."

To sign up for the World's Greatest Shave, visit worldsgreatestshave.com.au or phone 1800 500 088.


What is World's Greatest Shave?

• The Leukaemia Foundation's World's Greatest Shave began in Lismore NSW and was inspired by a daughter's love for her father who was battling leukaemia.

• 2020 marks the 22nd World's Greatest Shave campaign, making it one of Australia's longest running and most loved fundraising events.

• Each March, more than 20,000 extraordinary Aussies help conquer blood cancer by getting sponsored to participate in World's Greatest Shave. Thousands of extraordinary Aussies of all ages will shave, colour, or wax the hair on their head, chest or face supported all the way by proud family, friends, colleagues and classmates.

• Some will have a personal connection to blood cancer, while others take part simply to have fun, tick a bucket list box and raise money for a good cause.

• One of the great things about Leukaemia Foundation's World's Greatest Shave is that everyone can be a part of it, whether that be as individuals or in teams, and whether that be at home, in their workplace, their school or elsewhere in their community.

• While the key campaign time is mid March, blood cancer diagnosis happens all year round, and so do shaves. Aussies can shave all through the year to support families living with blood cancer.

• A massive 27,500 kilograms of hair is estimated to have been shaved and cut over 22 years, with ponytails over 20cm long going on to make wigs for cancer patients. In 2020, World's Greatest Shave is partnering again with Sustainable Salons ANZ to ensure all hair can be re-used. Shorter hair is also being donated to make 'hair booms' to soak up oil spills in ocean waters.  


Five key reasons to take part in the World's Greatest Shave in 2020: 

 1.Empowerment - Men and women who have taken part in World's Greatest Shave often describe how empowering the experience is. They feel a sense of achievement and success in taking a risk, and then finding the strength to complete the challenge. By letting go of their hair, which is often related to their sense of identity and self-confidence, people are empowered and inspired. They learn beauty is not related to the way they look, and they are also empowered by the acknowledgment through public praise for their achievement months after the event. 

2. Empathy - There is an important difference between empathy and sympathy. By walking around with no hair, the following weeks and months after shaving their head, men and woman learn to see what life might be like for someone who has lost their hair due to cancer treatment. It helps give people perspective and the ability to build strong connections with others. 

3. Philanthropy - Contributing to the wider community and learning selflessness through giving.  Australians who take part often feel more connected to the wider community, acknowledging the differences between people and putting others first.

4. Community Values - World's Greatest Shave encourages a sense of community. Values shine through like caring for others, compassion and resilience. It unites entire communities who are rallying together to support a friend, neighbour, teacher, student, local newsagent, postman or a loved one who might be battling blood cancer.  Participants can share the experience of shaving their hair together as a group which is often described as one of life's most memorable experiences. 

5. Social Conscience - World's Greatest Shave encourages those taking part to have a greater awareness of blood cancer in their communities, both locally and globally. They learn that the simple act of shaving their heads and raising funds can make a difference. Donating longer hair to be made into wigs for other people can really make a difference to those people's lives and can help make their world a happier place.