Chemotherapy is a difficult experience, especially if hair loss is involved. Along with the traumatic physical and psychological effects of cancer, one must then deal with not feeling normal because they have lost their hair.

The medical staff at the Lucille P. Markey Cancer Center (MCC) in the UK HealthCare System see this daily when treating their patients. MCC, which is committed to the prevention, treatment and cure of cancer, has thousands of patients each year, some of whom lose their hair. When this occurs, many choose to wear hats, wigs, and/or head wraps, commonly called cancer or chemo turbans.

Group donating turbansChemo turbans are often made of a knit fabric and gather into a knot in the front of the cap.  Turbans retail for anywhere between $10-45 and many resource-limited patients are unable to afford them. Knowing this, Dr. Kimberly Miller-Spillman, associate professor in the Merchandising, Apparel & Textiles Department, decided to incorporate this local need into her FCS350 class work. "I believe that most students would like to give back to the community, but many are pulled between class, organizations, clubs and financial obligations," Miller-Spillman said about the project. "Making an item during class time is very appealing to them. This way, they can make a difference in the community just by showing up for class. It's a win-win situation for everyone."

Chemo turbans are a simple project and completed during one lab in FCS350: Design Issues in FCS. This class in the Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles department at UK is an introduction to design principles and processes as applied to the fields of fashion and interior design.  Students are expected to apply these skills through performance based activities by making chemo turbans, pillowcases and travel bags.

This is the second year Dr. Miller-Spillman and her students have sewn chemo turbans. Approximately 30 were donated to the Markey Cancer Center, ranging in sizes from small to extra large. And it's not just the participants of FCS350 who are helping:  Susan Michelman, the former chair of Merchandising, Apparel & Textiles, and her husband John donated two Baby Lock sergers to the sewing lab in 304 Erikson Hall. A serger, which stitches and finishes the seam at once, cost approximately $600 each. The students of FCS350 used the two sergers to make the turbans from a single knit fabric.

This annual project not only teaches students fundamentals in design, but also the importance of giving back to the community through your own talents and resources.  Craig Rogers, director of outpatient oncology services at the Markey Cancer Center says the turbans are "wonderful gifts for our patients, who are very appreciative of the generosity and caring of Dr. Miller-Spillman's class. It is truly overwhelming."