MILWAUKEE — Talk to any woman going through chemotherapy for breast cancer and likely you’ll hear the stories of pain, exhaustion and hair loss. Since 2002, one woman has led the way to help ease some of that pain. She provides an accessory that’s been sent to thousands of women, including high-profile names like Elizabeth Edwards. It’s her way of lending comfort to those who need and deserve it most.
Ellen Persik first had the idea for “Cancer Caps” when her niece, who was going through chemotherapy, said the caps she was wearing were so uncomfortable it made her head sore. “At that time, they had nothing that was attractive. It hurt. There was nothing good about what they had out there for the gals,” Persik said.
Persik shared her ideas with some of her co-workers at Reinhart, Boerner and Van Deuren. They not only liked it, but were ready and eager to get to work. “Some of the women here and I decided we could invent some kind of a cap and tie it into the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer & tie it into our campaign. We made a few, and a few turned into a hundred,” Persik said.
Pretty soon, the group was up to 9,000 caps. This year, they’re going to make their 10,000th cap!
The comfort of these caps goes far beyond warmth. Heads may be fashionably adorned, but there are also therapeutic values. Persik says there is one woman she will never forget. “She loved Mickey Mouse and she had everything in her home that was Mickey Mouse and her husband called me and said, ‘can you make something,’ so I found a pattern of Mickey Mouse and I painted it on the cap, and she died with the cap on,” Persik said.
Although Persik will retire next year, her tradition will carry on and she says the caps will always be with her, as they are her legacy. “It’s a wonderful thing for me, with the caps and Making Strides. It keeps me young,” Persik said.
Persik credits her employer Reinhart, Boerner and Van Deuren who are one of the flagship sponsors for this year’s Making Strides Walk.