Carrying on one woman's love by knitting chemo caps

Knit Happens knits chemo caps

NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - October 31st is not only the last day of October, it's also the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month for this year.  But members of one group in our area focus on cancer year round.  Once a week, the ladies of Knit Happens of New Bern get together to knit, and while a lot of things come out of these meetings, it's what the women knit that's really touching chemo patients.

Amongst women sitting in a circle inside a coffee shop, every where you look there are stretches of yarn, busy fingers,talk and laughter.  "Whatever is said in Knit Happens, stays in Knit Happens - for the most part," says member Marian Cahoon Bissett.
While the ladies of Knit Happens knit hats, they're also knitting friendships.  "We laugh, we laugh a lot.  We talk about things, we cry," says Bissett.  "Somewhere in the course of my first meeting, I think they realized I had a hole in my heart that needed mending.  They did, and they filled up that hole, they taught me to knit," explains Knit Happens member Lea Strand, who joined the group after looking for something to do with all the yarn her mother left behind when she passed away.

In the Knit Happens knitting circle, which is comfortably nestled inside Bear Towne Java in Downtown New Bern every Wednesday afternoon, there is always has room for more.  "Anyone who comes in, like anyone who comes through this door or just a new friend, we'll say well, do you know how to knit? And we'll teach you.  So if you sit amongst us, look out, we're probably going to teach you to knit," says Bissett.

In fact, it was one woman's desire to learn how to knit that started it all.  "We just started meeting in January 2009 for Desiree, so that Desiree could learn how to knit caps and pay it forward," says Bissett.  Member Martha Cook adds, "it was a need for warmth, and that's how it really started."

Desiree Love wanted to knit hats for cancer patients, and she truly knew just how much they needed them.  "She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, and she fought a great fight, but she lost it," explains Bissett.  

It's a part of the knitting circle that will always be missing, but the needles haven't stopped, they still carry on Desiree's spirit.  The ladies of Knit Happens knit hats through a circle of friendship, with a lot of love inside each one.  The hats, and love, are then donated to cancer patients.  So far, they have donated more than 5,000 chemo caps.

"If they laugh because it's a silly hat or if they really need something to just keep warm," says Strand.

"Yes, like a yarn hug," adds Bissett.  "So emotionally we're putting in ourselves and prayers and hopes for the people who are going to be wearing them."

People like Christina Abbott Ward, who was diagnosed with stage three colorectal cancer five months ago.  "With the type of chemo I have, everything is heightened.  All your extremities get cold, your head gets really cold, your feet."

As Christina sits inside the room at the New Bern Cancer Center, where she had her second chemo treatment about a week ago, she remembers the moment she found the donated chemo caps at the center.  "These women put their heart and soul into these hats, and they make them for us, so we can wear them and be warm... That is a very selfless act, and there are not a lot of people who will do that, so it means a tremendous amount to me"

It's a sentiment registered nurse Marcy Mills hears chemo patient after chemo patient express when they put the donated chemo caps on their heads before enduring yet another chemo treatment.

Mills says, "for them to know that it's more than chemo, radiations, surgeries, doctor appointments, I think it's huge.  To know that they're supported in this way is a little something extra you can give them to make them feel like they're not alone."

It's support and love started by a woman who just couldn't outlast cancer, but her caring and love does in each hat knitted by her friends, as they help others get through their cancer fight.

"I think all of the ladies who come here bring a part of themselves and leave a part of themselves in their hats," says Strand.

Cook adds, "and knowing that we've hopefully made someone's day a little brighter by giving them a hat."

The ladies of Knit Happens also make children's caps for pediatric cancer patients.  They donate them to the children's hospital in Greenville.

If you would like more information on Knit Happens of New Bern, CLICK HERE.

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