After a neighbor lost her hair while going through chemotherapy, Helen Mason crocheted her a hat. The "chemo cap" was so well received that Mason asked her granddaughter Lindsey Bashaw, a hematology/oncology nurse on Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, if she thought her patients "might like to have some hats as well." The answer was an unqualified (and very enthusiastic) yes. Bashaw tells us that she was "so excited" to be able to offer the caps, because "at that time, we were usually giving the patients surgical caps to wear." And she suggested there might be more attractive options. (Our surgical colleagues may disagree.)
When Bashaw began bringing the crocheted caps to work, she says they would "disappear immediately." It makes her happy to see her grandmother's handiwork on her patients, she says, adding that the homemade gifts have a "tremendous" impact on the recipients. They "cry when they lose their hair," Bashaw says of her patients, "and then they smile when we give them a beautiful hat."
Bashaw tells us that her grandmother "has made beautiful crochet items" since "long before I was around," and that she's made more than 160 chemo caps to date. But that's not the only impressive number she's logged.
Mason, who turned 90 in July, is a member of the Cypress Village Sew and Chat, a group that's "part coffee klatsch" and part "assembly line," according to The Florida Times-Union. The dozen or so members of the group are residents of Cypress Village, "home to 1,200 retirees" who live "around a lake near Mayo Clinic." The group gathers twice a month to make stuffed toys, baby blankets, and pillows for patients who have had heart surgery. And, of course, they also now make chemo caps. They've made a lot of those items — more than a million, in fact, by the time the paper ran an article on the group back in 2014, after they won the City of Jacksonville's Retired Senior Volunteer Program's Volunteer of the Year award.
But Mason isn't in it for the accolades. "I do it for the fellowship and the good deed," she told the newspaper, adding that she gets "pleasure out of it" and hopes "it perks" the recipients "up a little bit and keeps their minds off troubles." The effort seems to have that kind of effect on Mason and her fellow stitchers, too. All the sewing and chatting, she says, "keeps us young."
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