At Suburban Turban we‘ve been designing hats for women coping with chemo hair loss for over 11 years. Our studio started small back in 2006, (my spare room!) I’d been an ‘Ascot’ milliner for 10 years and had never considered designing hats for women at time when they had a real need for elegance and soft headwear. I responded to a friend’s request, a surgeon at Royal Surrey Hospital, to organise a GRACE (http://www.grace-charity.org.uk/) fashion show fundraiser and the rest as they say is history.
We’re now a team of 5 milliners, designing and producing 2 collections a year. The studio moved to just outside Guildford, in Surrey. Here we can create hats right from processing and pre-shrinking fabrics, all the way through to trimming and finishing. As a small artisan company I love the fact that we’re able to bring uniqueness to our designs, selecting beautiful fabrics and hand-finishing trim details. Suburban Turban has become known over the years for our dressy daywear and eveningwear styles, many of which incorporate draping fabric to create shape and volume. We also love developing head wear solutions for specific needs – the non-slip exercise hat (https://www.suburbanturban.com/rachel-sports-chemo-hat.html ) and the realistic hair fringe wig (https://www.suburbanturban.com/hair-fringe-wig-for-hair-loss.html) were created from clients’ requests. If you’re facing chemo hair loss, or know of someone who is about to start chemo treatment, here are a few milliner’s tips to help make the transition with minimal stress.
We regularly hear ‘I don’t like hats. I have no idea how to wear a hat, or what suits me?’ Many of us only wear a hat for practical reasons – warmth in the winter, or shade in the summer. Not enough of us regularly wear a ‘Trilby’ because it’s part of our ‘style look, or a cocktail hat because we want to make an entrance when we walk into a room! Hats for hair loss will need to be worn for much longer periods of time – both indoors and outdoors.
Tip no. 1 – Lightweight fabrics in soft hat styles help make that indoor/outdoor transition easy and avoid overheating. Think trying to wear your bobble hat or ski hat indoors whilst meeting the girls for a coffee – it would look suitably casual, but it would be rather warm to wear indoors. Feel the hat and remember fabrics that feel soft and lightweight in your hand will feel the same on your head. Try to avoid scratchier wool mixes, synthetic fleece materials and linings, felted wool on a sensitive scalp needs a liner, (more of this later).
What’s your style tribe? Are you a casual dresser – a busy stay at home mum with children; an office worker requiring a smarter approach; or somewhere in-between the 2?
Tip no. 2 – Look at hat styles that will easily fit with what you currently have in your wardrobe – caps for casual days – school pick-up, dog walks and supermarket trips. Beanies and turbans for casual to smart or indeed smart office days. Think about colour too – this will make the everyday ‘getting ready to go’ quicker and less stressy. You’ll feel much more confident and in your ‘comfort zone’, if the style and colour feel right.
If I buy one black chemo hat that will work with everything – right? It is understandable to think that black goes with everything, but treatment can change your skin tone. You can look paler and more tired – black only tends to accentuate these characteristics.
Tip no. 3 – Think about deep jewel colours for your hats – they add colour to your skin tone and even on a ‘tired’ day help you to look well. You are going to need more than 1 hat over what could be a 6 month period of hair loss. They won’t get particularly dirty – they may collect a little make-up / perspiration but they will need a freshen up and a re-shape. If at all possible buy 2-3 and ring the changes – your hats will last longer with a rest.
So all hats are the same I just need to pick one up and I’m good to go. Another key difference with hats for hair loss wear is that they need to be cut and made deeper at the back of the head. Sounds obvious I know (!) I know but not all hats cover the back of your head. Winter knit hats will but you may not wish to wear wool knit (or synthetic knit) next to a bare scalp and they’ll be too warm.
Tip no.4 – Look at fuller styles like Baker Boy cap, bucket hats, beanies in lighter fabrics, berets – any style that is made fuller so that when you pull it down on to your head it doesn’t ruin the overall shape of the hat and you get enough coverage. Cloches are another good style that sit deep on the head.
Many women (not all) tell us that at the point of total hair loss (sometime around chemo treatment no. 2) the hair follicle is super sensitive and a wig/ headwear can be a real struggle. This seems to last for a week or so and then settle down. We would strongly recommend you plan ahead and have a soft beanie ready for this time. This way you have something to put on and you can wait till this phase passes. You can of course plan ahead – cut your hair shorter, purchase your wig whilst your own hair colour is there for reference, purchase hats for those times you don’t wish to wear a wig. This is all very much down to personal preference and how you wish to manage your hair loss.
We’re here on the end of the phone if you need style help and advice, or indeed if you’re local enough to come and try them on at the studio. Hair loss is one of the hardest knocks of cancer treatment, but there are now plenty of solutions available – realistic textured wigs and stylish headwear. You can take control of your hair loss, reclaim your confidence and feel gorgeous again.
Breast cancer changed my life in the most positive way!
I was diagnosed aged 35 with no family history of cancer of any kind. It was an instant steep learning curve but one I embraced from the start. I had always been very sporty, ate well and lived very healthy or so I thought at the time. I had always been into health and healing through non conventional ways so it was a hard decision deciding to do Chemo, getting my eggs frozen and doing Radiotherapy. I decision I would no longer personally have taken.
The doctors told me I had no time to decide and I must start treatment instantly. I now regret putting my body through the overdose of toxic chemicals as I believe like a growing number of other people that I could have healed through non conventional western ways. But in going through chemotherapy etc I can now relate to others that go through the same and help educate them in my mission that is dedicated to NonToxic Practice(TM) and prevention of Cancer.
Five years on I run Hello Love. The Home, Studio and Dojo at 62-64 Southampton Row in Holborn London. I set up with Kevin, my Cancer Wingman and partner in crime. It is also the spiritual home of my breast cancer charity the Hello Beautiful Foundation.
Prevention is key! Prevention of a re-occurrence is also so important. At Hello Love the basis of this practice takes place on 3 levels:
Mindfulness and positive emotional awareness as a means to living freely without stress and anxiety.
Organic plant-based diets that are free from animal proteins, processed sugars and genetic modifications. This extends into natural cosmetics
and finding products that have not been laced with parabens, pesticides and other chemical compounds.
Qi Gong, Sound Massage, Meditation and other holistic forms to realign the spiritual center and unify our purpose.
Over the last 5 years I followed this practice and dramatically changed my lifestyle. Its not a quick win it takes time, dedication and commitment but the rewards are immense. The way my body feels and the energy I now have is greater than I have ever experienced.
I started by throwing away all of my cosmetics. I had hundreds of pounds worth of everyday brands like Clinique and Mac make up. So many cosmetics from shampoo, toothpaste, hair dyes and nail vanish contain harmful chemicals including Parabens, Sodium Laureth Sulphate and many harmful detergents. Sadly my hospital prescribed a lot of these to me during Radiotherapy. Instead of helping to release the radiation they suggested rubbing my breasts in Petrolatum laced cream that would not allow my skin to breathe. Luckily my constant research helped me to be knowledgeable not to use what they were prescribing. I’m now starting to make my own cosmetics as nothing is as pure and healthy than knowing 100% what is going into what you use. We even use NonToxic paint at Hello Love so we are not breathing in so many chemicals on a day to day basic.
My food regime has changed gradually over the last 5 years. 3 years ago I would say I was eating super healthy and I am sure in another 3 I will think what I am eating right now isn’t that great. It’s about constant learning and growing and not stressing over anything! If one day you are dying for a cake then have it.
I only buy organic food. I make my own organic muesli on a morning and add some berries. I cut out diary due to the estrogen levels in animal products and I make my own nut milks. Bought nut milks often contain cancer causing emulsifiers and everything you make yourself is better than buying as you know 100% what is going into it. I eat a plant based diet. My plate is always full of colour. There is so much choice, variety and my taste buds are so intense after getting rid of processed foods, preservatives, sugar and meat from my diet. I also love juicing. We have an organic juice bar, tea house and vegan cafe at Hello Love and follow Gerson therapy of cold pressed juices which are full of nutrients and healing qualities.
Finally I focus on my soul. These days I work more than ever but I make sure im never stressed about it. If the train is jammed full I will wait and get on the next one or wait for the next 6 to come before I stress to squeeze on. In other words I go around as stress free as possible.
Being in the moment is key. Not worrying about the past or the future but only concentrating on the exact moment you are in. At Hello Love we offer a range of holistic practices that I practice myself. Meditation, Qi Gong, Sound massage, Gong Baths, Reflexology, Aromatherapy, yoga etc. The more I practice the more I lead a healthy lifestyle to help not only prevent a re-occurrence but help prevent so many illnesses.
I can now say I love every minute of life, the good and the bad and I love all I am learning from my cancer experience.
My name is Lorraine Lewis and together with my husband Lee Lewis, we run a charity based in Northampton called The Lewis Foundation.
Every Friday we hand out free gift bags to adults with cancer in Northampton General Hospital. The gift bags go to day patients and overnight stay patients. The patients can choose from a choice of 12 gift bags, which ranges from portable radios, magazines, craft packs and pamper packs. The aim is to take their mind off thinking about cancer and give them something nice to look forward to. It is also to reduce social isolation by spending time talking with the patient once they have received the gift bag.
We spent a lot of time on Talbot Butler Ward when my mother in law was receiving treatment for non – hodgkins lymphoma cancer. We noticed what a lonely place a hospital ward could be. We first started off helping by fundraising to buy TV and DVD players for the private rooms on the ward. It really bugged us that people had to pay £10 per day or £35 a week to watch TV. We used to smuggle in a TV because it was something that we just couldn’t afford.
So, I decided to spend 2 years fundraising to pay for 14 TV and DVD players. I did Tough Mudder and Rat Race Dirty Weekend in 2014 and 2015. They were one of the biggest challenges I have ever done, but to get me through I reminded myself about what I needed to achieve. I raised enough to purchase 14 TV and DVD players, which are still being used today. Nothing makes me happier when I see people watching them with the other TV’s pushed to the side.
However, we both thought we needed to do something on a long term basis and more personalised. This is how we noticed how difficult it was for people financially, physically and emotionally and we wanted to do something about it. Whilst in the hospital we heard things people needed such as a crossword book, some toiletries or something to read. We know how these items now become luxury items because you can no longer afford to work to pay for them. That is why we introduced the gift bags.
Since we started in April 2016, we have given out over 1500 gift bags to people within Northamptonshire.
Below are all five individual vlogs breaking down the letters S, P, A, C and E and exploring what they stand for within the community of cancer survivors and patients trying to nurture themselves and move forward after a diagnosis.
When you first hold that little bundle of wrinkled skin and shrivelled gorgeousness, in your arms, your life changes in the blink of an eye. Your carefree days of only having to worry about yourself are gone, your time is no longer your own. You are a mum. You are responsible for another life and the kisses of love and adoration that you pepper incessantly over that tiny head, are full of promises and dreams.
Eighteen months after I gave birth to our daughter, I sat in my doctors waiting room, wishing someone would take me in their arms, swaddle me in a blanket and kiss my head with promises while my dreams whirled around me like some kind of tornado.
I had been diagnosed with a hormonally receptive breast cancer for a second time. Not only did I have a husband this time around but I had a daughter, and the thought process that went with that minor detail made for a completely different thought process than it had before, seven years previously, in my twenties, when the most important thing to worry about had been whether to have white wine or red wine with dinner!
The plates we spin as mums are many; kids, routine, family, lifestyle, work, relationships, but when we are given the almighty serving dish of a cancer diagnosis to spin alongside, it takes so much of our attention to keep it spinning, that we can often find ourselves watching on while the other plates wobble to a lazy end and then crash to the ground.
A mothers love is a powerful thing but when I saw her toddling towards me on my return from that awful appointment, I felt totally helpless. What did this mean for her? How would we explain this to her? Who would look after her while I went to all my appointments? How much of her life would I be around for now? How was I going to cope with her energy? Does this mean she might be at risk?
As we processed everything, I put her to the top of my list. I wanted to protect her and I didn’t want her to notice anything different, but as details began to emerge of the treatment plan, I realised that her routine would be affected and we needed to manage that. Communication was key, but how do you tell a nearly two year old? How do you tell any child you, or a member of your family, have Cancer?
In this case, we kept it simple and related it to the global pink phenomenon that was then Peppa Pig. In all his glory Doctor Brown Bear stepped up to the mark and we told her that Mummy had an ‘ouch’ and would have to have daily visits with Doctor Brown Bear to make it better (though she looked understandably put out as to why she wasn’t invited too!)
But when, another eighteen months later, I had a third diagnosis, words failed me, never mind finding more to explain to a three year old. A child’s world is only as big as they are, their scale of reference is relative to their age, so the complexities of explaining to them something that is so often associated with death, becomes one huge scary issue!
My daughter was very young on both occasions, so we could just about manage the language and wave of questions that were fired at us like bullets, as we muddled through treatment and surgeries, but I was aware that she became clingy, a bit tearful and though generally happy and her normal outgoing self around others, the mothers guilt feasted and leapt upon these minor fluctuations, and self doubt and vulnerability caused my confidence as a mother to crash.
The hardest part for me was the huge black cloud that is the ongoing state of my fertility. A four year old’s radar for different family structures asserts itself considerably and when the question i feared the most was suddenly vocalised, it felt like a bomb exploding. The pain and the gut wrenching twist of my stomach, totally floored me, ‘Mummy, when will I have a baby sister or brother?’
Trying to keep language simple and not dissolve into a puddle is hard. We can’t predict their questions, we can’t guess what they will say next. So how do we manage issues such as the change in our appearance and hair loss, with older children? How do we tackle the sometimes debilitating fatigue and side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy? Or, as in my case, how do we start a dialogue with children post cancer, and discuss the far reaching side effects on ourselves and our families? After my own experiences and talking to so many other patients and survivors who are also, first and foremost, Mums, I realised that the support for us, as a group, is not as accessible as it should be. When the darker and more intense issues surface and we are still spinning all those plates, who do we go to? We push the panic deeper down inside us. Oh for that darned instruction manual!
Our children are individuals too. They may open up and confide in us or another member of the family, but they may also turn inwards and become guarded and defensive. If we focus on Cancer as a thing are we overwhelming them with issues of mortality? If we don’t, how can we control what their friends and outside influences tell them? Our mummy minds are a hot house of contradictions and once again we feel helpless to the things we can not control! The unknown is a scary place and as mothers, we will always claim that responsibility to protect them from anything that may jeopardise their innocence.
Parenting Support and Samspaces recognise all of these concerns and complexities and are collaborating to offer a series of workshops to support and nurture these feelings and concerns. With tools, tips and models that have worked effectively in other tough parenting areas (divorce, separation and siblings with special needs) our aim is to provide a safe and honest space for mums affected by cancer, directly or indirectly (it could be another close member of the family,male or female) to discuss what it is we need to feel calmer and more productive, what we can do to support ourselves and our children in a more positive way as well as discussing how we can move forward while creating a new family normal. Perhaps, together, we can implement small changes and take slow, baby steps; like taking ten minutes each day to allow ourselves to separate from that intensity and play, interact and engage with our children, creating a more positive environment for them, while offering a safe space where things are familiar again.
In light of everything, I am so proud of the girl my daughter is becoming. She may push us to the edge with her insanely early wake up calls, but she is her own amazing person. Recently, when I tried to explain to her, what Cancer was, now she is older, she told me, quite adamantly, that Alzheimer’s is way worse than Cancer because Great Granny has that! I realised that in her world, Cancer can’t be that bad because I look fine, however Great Granny is slightly less fine! Kids are clever, they pick up on everything but whether two or eight, I am proud she has seen that a mother can be strong, brave and honest and if she grows up knowing nothing else, I want her to know,
‘A mothers love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path’ – Agatha Christie.
And that, my darling, includes Cancer! x
To reserve your spot on the first FREE workshop on June 6th 2017 click here;