When Iris Lee Knell was undergoing treatment for breast cancer in 2010,
she found that enhancing her appearance made her feel better. Knell, a
psychotherapist and school counselor, wanted to remain positive for her
three daughters and husband. A lover of jewelry and clothes, she got dressed
each day, donning a turban and wearing scarves and jewelry.
“Feeling put-together lifted my spirits,” she says. “I
wondered if I could help evoke that feeling in other women experiencing
the side effects of chemotherapy.”
After giving some of her accessories to a friend whose mother was being
treated for cancer, Knell hatched the idea of distributing such care packages
on a larger scale. She made and brought kits to the Cancer Support Community
in Redondo Beach and received an enthusiastic response.
Demand for the packages continued to grow and Knell formed a nonprofit,
Chemocessories, to formalize the endeavor. Each coordinated set includes
a turban, scarf, necklace, bracelet and earrings.
Today the sets are available at Torrance Memorial Medical Center (in the
HealthLinks Resource Center), the Cancer Support Community and Cedars-Sinai
Medical Center. Patients around the country can request a set—even
specifying their preferred color—via Chemocessories’ website,
chemocessories.org. Last year the organization distributed 2,284 sets.
Recipients appreciate the effort. “Such a blessing and kindness!
It made me smile on a tough day,” wrote one recipient to Chemocessories.
Another wrote: “I’m always a very positive person, but I’ve
been soooooo tired lately ... and this was a super pick-me-up.”
The project has become a true community endeavor. Members of the Neptunian
Woman’s Club of Manhattan Beach sew turbans and assemble sets. Patterson
Cleaners provides complimentary dry cleaning of donated scarves, and Manhattan
Repro donates printing. Congregation Tikvat Jacob holds annual assembling
sessions (see the Chemocessories website to volunteer August 19 or 20).
Donations of funds or items are always welcome and Knell, who operates
the charity in a small office space, and would love to find larger donated
space where more community members can volunteer.
“Our goal,” Knell says, “is to provide some bright light
in a dark time and help women smile.” •