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Charity headshave at Rhyl Christmas lights celebration

A woman from Rhyl who was had type 2 diabetes for more than 20 years has shaved her head to raise money for Diabetes UK Cymru.

Ellen Shepherd-Smith, 71, had her distinctive purple locks shaved off on Saturday 30 November, live on stage as part of Rhyl’s Christmas lights switch-on celebrations.

Ellen Shepherd Smith has her head shaved on stage

The festive extravaganza on Rhyl High Street featured live music and entertainment from local artists, before local hair stylists from Body Beautiful Studio took to the stage to shave Ellen’s head.

Ellen was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when in her fifties. Ellen said, “I was feeling tired all the time and often felt light-headed. When I was diagnosed, I was told that I also had kidney disease, which is a common complication of type 2 diabetes. Looking back I must have been living with type 2 without knowing for a long time. I also have family members with diabetes.

“I’ve had some ups and downs with diabetes over the years. Changing my diet had a big impact and led to me being able to come off my diabetes medication for over five years. In recent years I have struggled with depression and other illness, which meant I gained weight and had to start taking medication again.

“I was nervous beforehand but once I remembered why I was doing it and heard the encouragement from the crowd it felt tremendous. When the announcer told them what I was doing and why there were gasps, and once the girls started they were shouting, clapping and cheering. Afterwards people came up to hug me and shake my hand and tell me about their own families’ experience of diabetes, which meant a lot. One lady came out of her shop with a fluffy Santa hat for me to wear so that my head wouldn’t get cold!”

There are around 194,000 people in Wales living with diabetes, the highest prevalence in the UK, and 90 per cent of those have type 2. It is estimated that a further 61,000 people in Wales are living with type 2 diabetes but are yet to be diagnosed.

People with type 2 diabetes do not produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce does not work properly. This is known as insulin resistance. People might get Type 2 diabetes because their family history, age and ethnic background puts them at increased risk. They are also more likely to get type 2 diabetes if they are overweight. The condition can lead to devastating complications as kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and sight loss.

Ellen’s efforts have so far raised almost £150 and she is still collecting donations.

Ellen continued, “Lots of people don’t understand how serious diabetes is. I hope that by doing this I have raised more awareness; if it helps even a little then that will be a great reward! I also hope the money will help fund research to find a cure, so that young people especially no longer have to live with diabetes.”

Joseph Cuff, Fundraising Manager, Diabetes UK Cymru, said, “Thank you so much to Ellen for taking on this challenge and shaving off her distinctive hair do to support us! A head shave is no mean feat, particularly at this chilly time of year, and we’re so grateful to everyone who has donated so far.”

If you would like to donate to Ellen’s challenge, donation buckets are available at Body Beautiful Studio, Wellington Road, Rhyl and Rhyl Coin and Stamp Centre, Sussex Street, Rhyl.