Love in every stitchChemo caps drive has huge public response
Fargo – It took a few weeks for Ingrid Myrum to start losing her hair. At age 17, the Moorhead High School junior had been diagnosed with stage II Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The cancer was highly treatable with chemotherapy. But one of the side effects was hair loss, which was especially hard for a high school junior.
Fargo – It took a few weeks for Ingrid Myrum to start losing her hair. At age 17, the Moorhead High School junior had been diagnosed with stage II Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The cancer was highly treatable with chemotherapy. But one of the side effects was hair loss, which was especially hard for a high school junior. Ingrid even lost her eyelashes and brows.
For the next couple of years, hats, caps and bandanas became Myrum’s constant companions.
“I had a wig, but it was too itchy,” says Myrum. “After a while, I wore a hat most of the time. It was more comforting to me.”
Today, Myrum is 22, healthy and set to graduate from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a graphic art degree. But she hasn’t forgotten how traumatic it can be for cancer patients of any age to lose their locks.
This February, while getting her five-year checkup at Essentia Health, Myrum learned the cancer center was almost out of chemo caps. So she and her mom, Carla Myrum, decided to do something about it.
Fortunately, they knew a whole network – or perhaps knitwork – of knitters. Carla herself has knitted since she was 12 and made many of Ingrid’s own chemo hats.
And one of Carla’s good friends happens to be Keatha McLeod, who runs Prairie Yarns in Fargo with her daughter.
McLeod immediately wanted to help. After all, she had known Ingrid since she was 2. And McLeod and Carla Myrum’s 20 years of friendship included a period working together as nurses at the former Dakota Hospital in Fargo.
“Because we know it’s such a rocky road for people to walk,” McLeod says, sitting at a table in her south Fargo store. “Any way we can lighten the load or make the journey smoother, that’s what it’s all about.”
One of McLeod’s employees, Nicole Mattson, got the idea to stage a “50 chemo caps in 50 days” drive for the hospital. The event, which started April 1 and runs through May 20, was posted on Prairie Yarns’ online newsletter.
Within hours, people came into the store to buy yarn. Within days, people brought in completed caps. And within weeks, kind-hearted knitters had blown the lid off the “50 caps in 50 days” quota.
“I was just stunned,” McLeod says. “Everyone who has brought in caps has a story. I think it speaks to how many people have been affected by cancer.”
As the story of the cap drive spread among friends and family members, people from as far away as California and Duluth responded. Some sent a dozen caps at a time.
McLeod and her employees began hanging the caps in a window of their store. In no time, the caps ran clear across two wide display windows and were several rows deep. At last count, there were more than 250 of them.
The caps are made in all kinds of yarns and available in every possible color. Some are embellished with buttons or embroidered flowers. And some are tiny – a poignant reminder that children get sick, too.
“They’ve been very creative with them,” McLeod says, proudly. “Every hat here has been knit with love.”
“These hats have prayers in every one of them,” adds Carla Myrum.
Then again, McLeod isn’t surprised by the response. She’s found knitters to be a good-hearted lot. “Many knitters come in here and want to do things for people,” she says.
And there’s still time to participate in the “knitwork.”
Interested knitters should check out the Prairie Yarns website, which offers suggested yarns and patterns.
In general, McLeod asks that the caps be soft and breathable and come with fiber content and care instructions. If they are handwash-only, that should be noted.
Ingrid Myrum, the girl who started it all, doesn’t knit, but she’s been surprised by the great response. And she knows what the caps will mean to their wearers.
“I think it’s the emotional connection,” she says. “When you have cancer, the first thing you do in the morning is get up and put your hat on. But it’s the thought that someone didn’t go to a store to buy this cap. Someone put all this time into it.”
How to help: The Essentia/Prairie Yarns chemo cap drive continues through May 20. To donate a cap, go to http://prairieyarns.com and click on “Chemo Caps,” or call the store at (701) 280-1478.
Online: To see a gallery of the chemo caps, go to http://goo.gl/l5Aa3.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525