Mary McGoldrick Maxine Dohmen

Mary and Maxine each make hats for women who lose their hair to chemotherapy . . . starting with themselves.

Now, they both donate handmade hats to the Cancer Care & Infusion Center to give other patients practical, personal comfort.

Mary was diagnosed in October 2017 and began chemotherapy just before Christmas. “Winter is no time to be bald in Minnesota,” she says, so Mary made about 30 fleece hats and donated all but one: “The first one I made was for me, and I lived in it all winter.”

Mary stayed positive through a year of treatment. “I’m getting to the age that you wonder what is going to kill you – and all I know is, this isn’t it,” she told her doctors. Mary compared notes with a friend who describes her own chemotherapy at a large hospital “like a football field with women lining both sides of the room,” Mary says. “And here I am in a little private room overlooking the prairie, with wonderful staff and personal care.”

Her advice to others in treatment? “I was never sick from chemo, but I was tired. My advice is, Let it take you. Let the sleep happen; it’s your body trying to fix itself.”

When Maxine was first treated for cancer in 1992, “I couldn’t find anything I liked to put on my bald head. I’m vain; I couldn’t stand to be bald,” she laughs. Maxine designed five styles of turbans and hats, using soft stretchy knits that soothe painful scalps. She tucks soft shoulder pads into the crown to give each turban extra height and warm cushioning.

Maxine got cancer again in 2008; early diagnosis and surgery meant no chemotherapy. (Her husband Ron, now in cancer treatment for the third time, prefers to wear his farmer seed cap.) Maxine makes hats for friends of friends, and even strangers: “My hats are all across the United States now,” worn by women of all ages.

She sees one thing these women have in common: “They’re all scared. Well, I was scared too.”  

Her advice? “Pray, and call a friend. We all have good friends, and they don’t mind listening. That’s what friendship is about: Holding each other up when we need it.”