In 2005, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She went through surgery and then moved on to chemotherapy treatments. She knew she would probably lose her hair so she ordered a wig. I never saw her wear the wig…instead she opted to wear scarves instead because she felt that the wig wasn’t really her. My mom is now cancer free, but my passion about raising money for cancer research and organizations that help people going through treatment hasn’t ended.
I recently stumbled across an organization called Hats for Happiness. A woman who goes by the name “Cancer Girl” started Hats for Happiness with the mission to provide “Cancer Super Heroes” going through chemotherapy with Hats and other head coverings. Cancer Girl describes an additional mission of the organization as “being a community where volunteers and Cancer Super Heroes who have fought and who are still fighting can come together.”
Cancer Girl describes the beginning of this organization as an accident. “I got cancer and began a blog “The Adventures of CancerGIrl and SuperDog’ at http://itscancergirl.blogspot.com. The blog is an account of my experience with having cancer, being a college student, going to school during treatment, and trying to run a household.”
During that time she lost her hair due to chemotherapy treatments. About 1 ½ hours from her home, they have what are called “wig parties” once a month. However, she lost her hair soon after beginning chemo and it just so happened that it was weeks before the next wig party. Many people gave her hats and she heard from others that they had “about 5 or 6 hats around some place” with an offer to give them to her. It occurred to her that if the handful of people she knew with several hats each, there must be a lot more people who have hats that they have never worn.
Cancer Girl continues, “I further began to think about how much more convenient it would be if the Oncologist office had a display that had a number of hats on it that people who have lost their hair can choose a hat from the display when they go to their oncologist, which is someplace that Cancer Super Heroes go on a regular basis.”
The name Hats for Happiness came from Cancer Girl’s tradition of watching stand-up comedy, sitcoms, and funny movies during her chemo treatments. While the shows didn’t take away the side effects of the medications, “they did make me laugh for a few minutes and I would feel a little bit better.” She took on a “fake it till you make it” mentality and found that it worked, that she truly was happy. She also spoke to other cancer patients through being “Cancer Girl” she was able to spread the positivity of being happy.
How can you help Cancer Girl and Hats for Happiness?
- Individuals or groups can help by collecting hats and sending them to any of the addresses listed on the organization’s website.
- Financial donations are also accepted to cover the cost of shipping hats to those who request them. You can send a check to Hats for Happiness, P.O. Box 144 Morriston FL 32668 or make a donation through PayPal using the link on the website.
- The organization is also planning a number of fundraisers and hat drives across the nation.
- If you work in the Oncology field, you can help by hosting a distribution display in your office. The office would not have to be responsible for anything but allowing the organization to have a small area in the waiting room for a display where patients can choose a hat or leave hats for donation.
- Business owners can also help by hosting a Donation Box. A volunteer go and collect the hats and any checks that are left and replenish the supply of available hats. Their displays are colorful and brighten up any office or business!
- Groups could also hold a hat drive and fundraisers to benefit Hats for Happiness. Some suggestions include community yard sales, bake sales, bike rides where there is a fee for riding in the ride that is waived with the donation of a hat.
In addition to providing hats, Cancer Girl spends much of her time speaking with Cancer Patients, Caregivers, and parents of children with Cancer. The organization’s mission is much more than hats, it is about the community, the sharing, and the friendship that is fostered through bringing together Cancer Patients with those who care about and for them. This also gives Cancer Super Heroes who have won their battle a way to continue to feel like they are involved with the community. Cancer Girl describes that “many times after treatment people have so much support during that once they are in remission that support tends to wane. It isn’t an intentional thing on the part of family and friends, they may feel like the battle is won, and they want to move on, for the person who has just gone through treatment though, it is sometimes very hard to ‘get on with things’ when they have spent so much of their time focused on Cancer during treatment, it is hard to transition back into life. By providing a community of people who have been at all the stages of treatment, and life after, it helps people going through this horrible illness feel like they aren’t alone.”
Hats for Happiness recently began a program where cancer patients can sign up to be put on a list of “Cancer Super Heroes” and other volunteers are signing up to be “Super Cheerleaders”. The cheerleaders can post words of encouragement on the hero’s Facebook wall or connect through email.
Cancer Girl describes her personal experience with cheerleader type support: “One of the greatest motivations and sources of strength for me was to have others posting on my wall, many times people I did not know well or personally, just people who cared in general, who wrote things like ‘You can do this’ and ‘We know you are a strong and you can beat this’, people who are happy with them when they want to be happy and who can also be there for them when the not so good times come. Through this lifelong friendships are formed, and everyone benefits, after all, who couldn’t use a few more Friends and people caring about them?”
You can learn more about Hats for Happiness at their website, www.HatsForHappiness.org, via e-mail, on Facebook or Twitter. You can also follow Cancer Girl’s Blog at http://itscancergirl.blogspot.com.