Starting a hat-making business helped me cope with my terminal cancer diagnosis

To my surprise, the terminal diagnosis gave me the impetus to make the idea real.

To my surprise, the terminal diagnosis gave me the impetus to make the idea real. I was working in a job I loved, managing a store for a luxury leather and lifestyle brand, but my employers were supportive, helping me come up with branding ideas. A pair of bamboo socks we sold gave me the idea for the fabric to use for the hats: bamboo keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer and doesn’t irritate your hair follicles.

At a Christmas fair in 2019, I met a hatmaker who helped me to source bamboo and find an overseas factory. It was important to me that the colours were right: soft, flecked pastels so as not to wash out the pale skin that cancer patients get when they go through chemo.

These days, the business keeps me going as I sit through hospital appointments – in fact, it has helped me over the past few months more than ever, as Covid-19 has made cancer even lonelier.

Some days I wake up feeling as if I’ve been hit all over my body with a baseball bat – my arms and chest are so ravaged from years of treatment that I now have a permanent drug port installed in my chest. But then I focus on emailing suppliers, building my website and brand, and for a moment the pain subsides.

I don’t know how much longer I’ve got, but I’m determined to stay positive, and if a few thousand cancer sufferers are more comfortable thanks to Jeannie’s Beanies, that’s a good enough legacy for me. Some days I go to work meetings dressed in a suit and one of my own beanies and think to myself: ‘Jeannie, you rock it.’ 

As told to Sally Howard.

£5 of the profits from the sale of each beanie goes to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity; jeanniebeanie.com

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