When Lori-Anne Vd Merwe Biebuyck (49) from Cape Town was diagnosed with cancer late last year and lost her hair, she decided to turn her life-changing situation around and make something positive out of it.
“I was diagnosed on October 25 2018 after a mammogram that I schelduled before I felt the lump in my left breast. I always take friends with, this time around I took 2 of my schoolfriends along.”says Lori.
It was then that Lori-Anne decided to take start up a page called “Bald and Beautiful” on Instagram and Facebook and began creating gorgeous multi-coloured hats with delicate handmade flowers to wear instead of a wig, under the brandname “hatsbylori.” Since then, she has been encouraging cancer patients everywhere to embrace their beauty and live every day as if it were their last.
Lori-Anne’s life had not been untouched by cancer before her diagnosis; she lost both her parents to the illness as well and was still mourning her father when she received the news that she had stage 4 HER2-positive breast cancer.
“I lost my mother 17 years ago to pancreas cancer and my dad to lung cancer in August 2018. In October  I was diagnosed. So weird to walk into the same oncology unit I took my dad to, to only be the once having to take a seat for myself,” says Lori-Anne.
Rather than letting the fear and sadness defeat her, she chose to rise above it and spread positivity to others suffering with cancer with her fun, unique creations.
Soon after being diagnosed, Lori-Anne started with chemotherapy sessions. 16 days and four sessions in, her hair began falling out.
“Treatment is going great, I’ve had four red devil chemos and I am on number four of 12 chemo sessions. The chemo I’m on currently doesn’t affect me negatively, I am only sleepy afterwards due to the anti allergic injection I get beforehand. The red ones make you feel terrible. Nausea and tiredness where you don’t get out of bed for three days straight. My nausea lingers for about five to eight days and you feel like this despite five different anti-nausea drugs,” she says.
While dealing with her hair-loss she heard that many patients chose either to wear wigs or scarves on their heads, but Lori-Anne could not get them to fit right. Then a friend made hats for her to wear, and a revolution was set in motion.
She fell in love with the concept and how beautiful the hat made her feel. She wanted more hats in a variety of colours to match her clothing and with flowers on them for extra detail, so she started making them herself.
“I wasn’t going to wear a wig, that was a decision I made when I knew my hair was going to fall out. I tried scarves, too time-consuming and frustrating. Then a friend started making hats for me, I obviously wanted a different look each day and that’s when me and a friend started looking at patterns and designs on Pinterest. Needless to say hatsbylori was born,” Lori-Anne tells us.
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Before she knew it, she had more hats then she could wear and began sending them to other cancer patients around the country to bring them happiness and support.
“I have made over 250 hats. I give them to chemo rooms where I can and then I distribute them throughout the country to people who contact me via Facebook. On a daily basis people send me a photo to show me how proud and confident they look,” says Lori-Anne.
A community began to grow around Lori-Anne and she created a Facebook page to share her daily routines and some fun DIY tutorials so that other people could create their own beautiful hats at home.
Many challenges still lie ahead for this courageous and inspiring woman – she has more chemotherapy sessions in store and a double mastectomy planned – but Lori-Anne is not alone in her journey. There are hundred of thousands of women battling their way alongside Lori-Anne, who continues helping the rest of these iron women to replace their tears with smiles.
“Initially it is a shock, I thought of choosing my hymns for my funeral, you think you are going to die, but you’re not it’s just the beginning of a different journey and only a hurdle in the path. I am a positive person so don’t think too much about the future but live by the motto of “Memento vivere. Live in the moment. One day at a time,” she says.
Every once in a while, people come along and remind us how important every moment is. They change the way we see the world and replace the sad moments with brightly-coloured fabric flowers hand-made with love. As Lori reminds us to live our most positive lives, is we hope that in sharing her story her message has reached you as well.
Pictures: Facebook / Bald and Beautiful