Golden Knights’ Pierre-Édouard Bellemare reflects on shaving his head for breast cancer awareness
‘I figured if I could shave my head, maybe they would see that as a less negative situation’
One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and many of them will undergo chemotherapy and shave their heads before enduring one of the treatment’s side effects: hair loss.
Vegas Golden Knights left winger Pierre-Édouard Bellemare elected to share that experience. To kick off this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, he joined patients and survivors at Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada by shaving his head. The act was also in memory of two family members who died of cancer.
Bellemare recently shared his thoughts on the Oct. 2 head-shaving, just before the start of the team’s season.
“I figured if I could shave my head, maybe they would see that as a less negative situation,” he told The Undefeated. “I’m just a normal person. The only difference is that I do a sport and work my entire life to be able to be a part of a team. And because of that it has put me in a position where I can do something as little as just shaving my head.”
Bellemare’s wife, Hannah, lost her grandmother to cancer two years ago. It was a battle that lasted for more than a decade — one that started off as breast cancer and ended in brain cancer. During her grandmother’s battle, her grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died one month later, shortly before her grandmother.
“For my wife, it was a tough moment,” he said. “I was a part of that, recovering and helping cope with one of her grandparents passing away. Her grandma’s been fighting for a lot of years, and then suddenly her grandpa had it. Then, boom — he was gone in a month.”
Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada has provided an array of oncology services since 1979. Bellemare first got involved with the organization as a spokesman. While shooting a series of commercials, he met with patients and survivors and learned about their journeys.
“To know what they had to go through every day for the entire cancer … it’s just a decent perspective that you get,” Bellemare said. “It’s something that is so devastating for a woman to have to shave their head. It’s like a big part of a woman.”
He’d always told Hannah that it would be an honor to participate in the cause.
“Because of my wife’s grandma being affected with first the breast cancer and obviously my wife, there is risk also for her to have it,” Bellemare said. “So it became something really close to us.”
As a member of the Vegas community, Bellemare believes it’s important to connect with places such as Comprehensive Cancer Centers.
“I was like, all right, let’s try to give a little bit back,” he said. “My hair will grow back, so it’s not the biggest gesture I can do. … There is already so much they have to fight to be able to survive. Having your head shaved shouldn’t be something to have any focus on.”
For Bellemare, 33, playing a rigorous sport day in and day out does not compare to the fight against cancer. Bellemare was born in a suburb of Paris. His father was born on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. He began playing hockey when he was 6 years old and was a professional player in France by age 17. He signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2014 and joined the Golden Knights expansion team in their first year. They made it to the Stanley Cup Final, and he finished the 2017-18 season playing in 72 games and compiling 16 points.
“They have to fight to be alive. What they do every day, it’s so much harder than what I’m doing,” Bellemare said. “I got there and I was a little stressed. I talked to two of those women and suddenly I’m realizing, like, what the heck am I scared of? It’s supersimple, I don’t have to deal with their stress. When you hear what they have to go through in the last few months, you’re like, all right, this is just really easy. Just do this half and we’ll make sure that the people enjoy it.
“They are the heroes of the story. They are the people that are inspiring me more than I am inspiring them,” he said.