Watch: Dubai hairstylist goes viral for shaving head in solidarity with cancer-affected client

'It's sometimes difficult for children to see their mother without hair – I wanted to make sure [they] knew that it was okay', says hairstylist Jalal Hafed


Nasreen Abdulla

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Published: Wed 21 Dec 2022, 5:45 PM

Last updated: Wed 21 Dec 2022, 7:47 PM

When Emily Bennett met Jill Weymes, and Jill's husband Jalal Hafed, online earlier this year, she had no idea how much that friendship would mean to her once she was diagnosed with cancer.

Earlier this week, the 34-year-old decided to shave off her long tresses when she found her hair falling off in clumps as a result of chemotherapy. Jalal, who works as a hairstylist at the Nordic Int'l Beauty & Training Centre in Jumeirah, offered to do the cut.

When Emily arrived at the salon with her three children, 4-year-old twin girls Ela and Isa and 5-year-old Davey, Jalal was ready for her. And to her utter surprise, Jalal shaved off his hair too. In a video that has now gone viral on social media, Emily’s confusion is evident as she tries to comprehend what is happening.

“He is always so stylish and [looks] so handsome – I was not expecting that at all,” Emily said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “However, it meant a lot to me, especially [considering] the kids were with me.”

Jalal says he wanted to let the kids know that their mother cutting her hair is okay. “It's sometimes difficult for children to see their mother without hair,” he explained. “I wanted to make the children [knew] that it was okay – maybe even a cool thing! Also, Emily is a dear friend. I wanted to do a little something in solidarity with her.”

And sure enough, one of Emily’s daughters asked if she could shave her hair off too. “She thought it looked beautiful,” said Emily. “It made me a chuckle, and I needed that to just lighten the mood.”

Afterwards, Jalal even had a gift for Emily.

A friendship meant to be

Emily met Jalal’s wife when she placed an order from her then-online Etsy shop in December 2021 – exactly a year before Jalal cut her hair. At the time, she was in the UK and her husband had just been offered a job in Dubai. “We connected quite quickly, especially since our children were of a similar age,” said Jalal, who has a 3-year-old daughter. “We took the kids out for playdates and soon became quite good friends.”

Jalal with his family
Jalal with his family

According to Emily, it was a relief to have friends like Jalal and Jill when she first moved to the UAE. “They were very warm and welcoming,” she said. “And their daughter was a good playmate for my kids. With no other family around, this was a great help.”

Having a family history of breast cancer, Emily had a thorough check-up done in May this year, where all her tests and breast ultrasounds came back clear. In October, Emily felt like something was wrong. “It was a strange sense that I had cancer,” she said. “I couldn’t feel anything, but I just knew that something was wrong. I actually [developed] insomnia over it.”

Seeing all the messaging about breast cancer awareness during the month, Emily decided to get checked again. “My husband was making an appointment for himself, and I just asked him to book one for me as well,” she said. “I remembered reading an influencer’s story, and the story stuck as she was my age – I decided to go to the same hospital.” Upon meeting Dr Archana at Mediclinic Parkview the same week, her worst fears were confirmed – she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.

Thankful to be in Dubai

In the weeks following her diagnoses, Emily had a series of tests done – including a PET CT scan, MRI scans, biopsies and a genetic test which revealed that she indeed had a rare genetic mutation of the PALB2 gene.

‘’If I had known earlier, I would have had regular and close monitoring,” she said. “However, I am glad to have this information now. It will be very important for my family and my kids to take care of their health.”

Emily with Jalal’s wife Jill
Emily with Jalal’s wife Jill

During this time, Emily has been extremely thankful for being in the UAE. “One of my friends in the UK got diagnosed at the same time as me,” she said. “She hasn’t yet got a date for chemotherapy; however they are looking at four months.

It made me realise how blessed I am to live here, and get the kind of medical care I get here. I was able to catch my disease at a very early stage and I am completely confident it can be cured. Timing is essential in the case of cancer.”

Emily admitted that she sometimes felt scared about her varying energy levels after chemotherapy. “I have three young children and they are a bit clingy now,” she said. “They want to see me all the time. So it is hard for them when I go to take a nap or when I am down on my energy.

That is the only thing that I worry about. Right now, we are looking at a full-time nanny to join our family to help and support. It’s going to be a tough year, but we will come out stronger on the other side.”


More news from UAE