Friends through good and bad times

Best friends Rachael Litjens and Rachel Hiley. Rachael has lung cancer and Rachel is having her head shaved for charity to help.
Best friends Rachael Litjens and Rachel Hiley. Rachael has lung cancer and Rachel is having her head shaved for charity to help.

BEST mates for more than 30 years, Rachel Hiley and Rachael Litjens have a special bond of friendship.

The two women met as 11-year-olds at the former Highlands Grammar School, Halifax, and stayed close pals as they completed their education, started work, got married and had families.

When Rachael was diagnosed with lung cancer in November and lost her long hair because of chemotherapy, her best friend was determined to show as much support as she could and help raise funds for the fight against cancer.

So this month Rachel will have her long brown hair shaved off to match Rachael’s bald head.

Rachael, who works as an admin assistant at Hillside Services, Bailiff Bridge, is overwhelmed by her friend’s gesture. She was reduced to tears when Rachel told her that she had arranged the sponsored head shave and that she was prepared to lose her glossy brown hair.

“Nothing reduces me to tears but I have to admit I cried over what Rachel is doing for me. It stops everyone in their tracks and it goes well beyond the extent of our friendship,” said Rachael who lives in Northowram with her husband Steffan and teenage sons Kyle and Keir.

The sponsored head shave takes place on Friday, January 13 at the Yew Tree pub, Northowram, and the two women, both aged 42, are hoping it will raise thousands of pounds for the Greenlea Oncology Trust at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

Rachel lives in Hipperholme with her nine-year-old daughter Millie and works as a legal assistant at BHP Clarksons solicitors in Halifax.

She said true friendship was about being there for each other when things went wrong - not just for the good times.

“When my car was written off Rachael let me use her car. We have always looked out for one another so I promised her when her hair fell out I would match her bald head.

“I’ve had long hair since my early 20s and, like most women, I love my hair but it’s a small price to pay for friendship,” she said.

Rachael started feeling unwell in October and has undergone three rounds of chemotherapy with three more treatments to go. Though she has smoked since she was a teenager she has now given up.

The charity event starts at 7pm. There will be music and a fund-raising raffle with prizes which include a Halifax RL shirt, a Bradford Bulls shirt, theatre tickets and meal at a local restaurant. Two schools - St Chad’s at Hove Edge, where Millie is a pupil, and Northowram Infants and Juniors - are also holding Crazy Hair Days to support the cause.

Rachael said: “I feel this is a massive undertaking and would like as many people as possible to join us in fund-raising.

“Having lung cancer did not spoil my Christmas. I managed a glass of Champagne on Christmas Day but I’ve had to cut down on my red wine consumption - but I can live with that.”

Anyone who would like to sponsor Rachel or donate a raffle prize can contact Rachael on 01422 205727.