One Hat, Two Hats, Red Hats, Blue Hats
by Joanie Shawhan, RN
My sister said, “We have to make this fun!” I had just had surgery for ovarian cancer. I was devastated, in pain, scared, and unsure of my future. The chemotherapy would make me sick and bald.
My niece caught my sister’s zeal and excitedly surfed the Internet for wigs, hats, and head coverings. Their fervor was contagious. Yes, we have to make this fun.
First, I tried scarves stamped with bold floral and paisley designs. I smoothed the scarf over a flat surface and painstakingly folded it according to the instructions. I clasped the scarf aloft, wrapped it around my bald head, and knotted the ends. As I admired my handiwork, the scarf glided around my head and slid over one eye. The art of scarf tying eluded me. Frustrated, I searched for other options.
Joanie Shawhan and her family show off the many different hats she wore during treatment.
I never liked the way hats looked on me. Most hats drop down over my forehead, cover my eyes, and spin around my head. I flipped through hat and wig catalogues in desperation. I was excited when a package arrived from my sister. I tore open the box and pulled out three beautiful knit caps: purple, burgundy, and heather blue. Encouraged, I began my hat adventure. My best fit was the newsboy cap. I plopped it on my head, adjusted the slant, and twirled in the mirror creating quite the sassy fashion statement. While shopping, I plucked one colorful cap after another from its hook and modeled it. There were purples, reds, blues, velvets, and even some embellished with sequins and studs.
In the spring, velvet and knit gave way to cotton hats adorned with floppy flowers. As time elapsed, I passed along some of my special hats to others undergoing the throes of chemotherapy. One thing was irrefutable. My sister was right. We had to make this fun, and we did.
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Joanie Shawhan, an ovarian cancer survivor, is a registered nurse at UW Health in Madison, WI.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2010.