Hi! I am Susan Heimbigner; but in the world of the cancer patients with whom I come in contact, I am known as Susan “Victorious” – Victorious over cancer! Victorious in God! How did I get to this point in my life where I continue to turn lemons into champagne?
I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer as a birthday gift in February 2010, when I got my 9-month overdue mammogram. I celebrated my 6th year of survivorship and 6 more birthdays this past February. While each year marks a new anniversary and a new birthday, each day is one to be relished and cherished as the blessed PRESENT it is from God, and my cancer journey has taught me that lesson well.
During my treatment, I prayed that God would use my experience to help other women in treatment for cancer. The answer to my prayer was “Listen,” and that has been the byword throughout this journey. Two weeks later, I was walking through my treatment facility when I passed two women. I heard one of them say, “Now I can wear cute hats like hers.” She was referring to my beautiful, bright turquoise sparkle cap. Right then I wished I had a cap to give her. The light turned on and my prayer was answered – the seed for The Sparkle Caps Project (“Sparkle Caps”) was planted with that one comment from a passerby, a woman I knew was getting ready to start her own cancer treatment.
Another two weeks passed. Caps were ordered, supplies purchased, and prayers said, and I was getting ready to give out my first 12 (so I thought) Sparkle Caps gift bags. Before that happened, I was led to write a special letter, which has become the foundational letter for all the gift bags. Sparkle Caps was off and running.
Our mission is threefold: (1) To empower and uplift women in treatment for cancer with support, love, and personal experiences of cancer survivors; (2) to let women know that, in spite of their hair loss, they are HOT CHICKS, that their femininity is not tied to their hair; and (3) to help women maintain positive attitudes, because that is part of the battle.
We carry out our mission by providing women with gift bags chocked full of blessings and support. Each gift bag is tailored to the known needs of the recipient. A gift bag includes a HOT CHICK Sparkle Cap (17 colors available) with attached blessing tag, a knit or crocheted cap (as available and for particular types of cancer), together with uplifting messages, inspirational books and a novel, a crossword or word-find puzzle, a mini bag of useful chair-side items (tissues, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, nail file and lip balm), a mini bag of hard candies (to help with that “tin-like” after-chemo taste), a notebook and pen, and other useful goodies, empowering each woman on her difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible, journey with cancer (of any type).
PAYING IT FORWARD and growing from your personal battle with cancer is possible. My work environment was rough after I reported my health issue. Chemo was tough—I had even refused to take it, but my husband said he would drag me to treatment if he had to. Radiation got a little hot under the arm. A year of Herceptin infusion during and after chemo was actually easier for me, because it gave me time to readjust my thinking from being a cancer patient to being a survivor while helping others. I can say with all honesty that I am glad I had breast cancer, because it led me to start The Sparkle Caps Project and enjoy an even closer relationship with God.
When you believe in something, YOU can make a difference! With God in the lead, this outreach has continued to grow over the past five and a half years. We have now given out over 1600 Sparkle Caps gift bags of blessings.
CHAMPAGNE ANYONE? If you would like to know more about Sparkle Caps, please check out the ABOUT tab on our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/The-Sparkle-Caps-Project-222113294521156/ – and/or check out our website at www.SparkleCapsProject.com.
ABOUT THE SPARKLE CAPS (which are actually called “glitter” caps in the Alabama Girl catalogue): A friend of mine was a 20-year breast cancer survivor and my mentor during my journey. She sent me my first two glitter caps. I received so many compliments on them—from men and women. Those compliments helped me feel better about myself, even though I was bald. I wanted other women on the cancer journey to receive those types of compliments, while providing them with uplifting and inspirational support.
These are baseball-style caps, with expandable back bands, all glammed up with sparkles for us HOT CHICKS (with or without hair)! There are more than 20 colors available. These caps can be worn year round. Their bright colors welcome in the spring; their comfortable fit helps with the summer sun; and other colors are great for the autumn and winter (when one can wear with a headband or scarf underneath for additional warmth). These are a real fashion statement with casual wear or for use with dressier sportswear. Be cool! Be hot! Wear a sparkle cap! http://www.thealabamagirl.com/16/home.htm.
We can allow cancer to control us, or we can control how we deal with cancer. My positive attitude has been one of my best cancer fighters, and paying it forward has been a blessing. We never know when or how we will die, but we can choose how to live! I chose to live beyond my cancer by helping other women through theirs.
A few sample colors of the Sparkle Cap