Carolyn’s chemo caps turn heads

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By Melissa Keogh

South Australian cancer survivor Carolyn Mugford has turned a passion for sewing into a fashion accessory that has turned the head of Adelaide couture designer, Paul Vasileff.

The Strathalbyn woman is the creator of Carolyn’s Chemo Caps, special headwear for women who have lost their locks due to chemotherapy.

In the past five years, Carolyn and her band of volunteers have made and delivered 10,000 Chemo Caps to all major oncology units in SA hospitals, as well as in Victoria.

Last week, Carolyn met with hugely successful South Australian fashion designer and 2017 Young Australian of the Year Paul Vasileff, who is the brains behind Paolo Sebastian.

Chemo Caps are worn by women who lose their hair due to chemotherapy.

Chemo Caps are worn by women who lose their hair due to chemotherapy.

Carolyn, who has been nominated as Australia’s Local Hero in the 2018 Australia Day Awards, also met with 2017 Local Hero Vickie Jelli, who is from Victoria.

Carolyn says Paul donated some fabric to help accessorise the chemo caps.

“Paul is such a beautiful man, he was very interested and complemented us on our designs,” Carolyn says.

She made her first ‘chemo cap’ in 2011 to hide her bald and sensitive scalp after undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“I felt like I had lost my identity and I didn’t want people looking at me and feeling sorry for me,” she says.

“With the chemo cap I felt confident, so I wore it to hospital and a lot of women would say, ‘I love what you’re wearing, where did you get it?'”

“I sat in my sewing room at home making them, it took my mind off how I was feeling.”

Chemo Caps volunteers began gathering at workshops in Macclesfield, Mt Barker and Hallett Cove to have a chat and a cuppa before getting down to business.

“We make about 150 chemo caps a month and they go to the Flinders Medical Centre, Burnside Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital – we service the major oncology units in SA,” Carolyn says.

Chemo cap volunteers have made more than 10,000 of the headdresses in the past five years.

Chemo cap volunteers have made more than 10,000 of the headdresses in the past five years.

The chemo cap project is managed by the Battunga Country Lions Club which services Carolyn’s former hometown of Macclesfield, in addition to Meadows and Echunga.

Club president Fred Keal says Carolyn’s Chemo Caps is the most “far reaching” project the club has supported.

“What Carolyn took was the setback of a cancer diagnosis and made a negative issue into a positive,” he says.

“The nature of the project is exactly what Lions is about.”

Main photo is courtesy of The Australian of the Year Awards.

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