Rebecca Wilson, 36, left Canada 11 years ago to work in the U.S., eventually signing on with Wake Med as an ICU nurse. A few years after arriving, Wilson married. She and her husband settled in Garner, North Carolina, and it wasn’t long before she became a mother to a son, and then a daughter.
Just when life seemed it couldn’t get better, Wilson learned she had cancer. Having cared for others her entire life, she was now forced to adjust to a new role – that of patient.
“I was diagnosed in June with stage 3 breast cancer,” said Wilson, who after undergoing a double mastectomy and two rounds of chemotherapy, has lost most of her long locks. “Initially I was in shock. But my treatment has been outstanding; I’m just so grateful to have the care I’m receiving here at Duke.”
Since losing her hair Wilson has made a couple visits to the Belk Boutique, a self-image specialty shop located on Level 0 of the Duke Cancer Center. The shop is staffed by trained volunteers who help fit cancer patients with free wigs, turbans, scarves, hats and post-surgical garments and prosthetics.
“After my diagnosis, this is the first place I visited where I actually felt normal again,” said Wilson with a chuckle.“Everyone here is so helpful and kind. They see past the effects of my cancer treatment. They truly understand what I’m going through.”
On a recent visit Wilson discovered GG Chemo Recovery Caps, stylish cotton or cotton blend caps handmade by Bebe Sellers, of Annandale, New Jersey. Sellers, who enjoys staying active, took up crocheting the chemo recovery caps in May.
“I gave one of my handcrafted caps to a former student receiving chemotherapy after a diagnosis of breast cancer,” said Sellers, a retired teacher whose niece, Michele Burgess, works at Duke as an education program coordinator for the Department of Medicine, Geriatrics Division. “Because the fibers of the cap are soft and comfortable to the skin, she slept in it. She loved it so much, she asked for another and before I knew it, GG Chemo Recovery Caps was born.”
Some of the chemo recovery caps are embellished with colorful crocheted flowers or with charms symbolizing faith and hope. Many caps come sponsored by a donor who designates a cancer center to which he or she wants caps to be sent. The GG Chemo Recovery Cap packaging features the name of that cap’s particular donor. Sellers recently began donating her caps to the Duke Cancer Center where they are offered to cancer patients free of charge.
“It’s wonderful to know that there are people within the community who, though they never meet us, come along side to partner with us in the fight against this illness,” said Wilson, who is being treated by Kimberly Blackwell, M.D., named in 2013 to Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and considered to be one of the country’s leading breast cancer researchers. “It’s the generosity of others and, of course, the support of family that helps us journey our way to a cure.”
Seller’s now donates her caps to 12 cancer facilities in four different states. Since she began, Sellers has knitted more than 300 recovery caps. There are no two the same.
“These caps are not your typical chemo therapy caps,” said Sellers. “They’re made with natural fibers, breathable and gentle on the skin, and designed with flare. It’s important to me that my caps elevate a patient’s self-image during a time when the effects of lifesaving treatment can sometime diminish a woman’s self-perception.”
There are many others from throughout the community also donating time, talent and resources.
“We are fortunate to have so many community members engaging with our Belk Boutique,” said Doreen Matters, Doreen Matters, administrator, external relations with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program. “Donations are received daily from individuals, civic groups, church groups, sewing clubs, the NC Jaycees and more. Belk stores from around the Triangle donate hats, scarves, and other head coverings to us every quarter. When patients enter the boutique a little anxious and leave with a smile on their face, you know donations, such as these, make a positive impact in their lives.”
The Belk Boutique is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Private consultation rooms are available. Cancer patients can select up to three self-image items, including one complimentary wig per patient. Patients desiring more information or who would like to schedule a consultation can call 919.613.1906. For more information on GG Chemo Recovery Caps, visit www.ggchemocaps.com.