Two days after Laura Daub moved to the Beach, she received some sobering news: she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Three weeks later Daub underwent a partial mastectomy/lumpectomy. The mass was removed with clear margins, but the diagnosis was not great: triple negative breast cancer, stage 2, grade 3 – one of the more difficult cancers to treat, as it doesn’t respond to hormonal therapies.
But rather than shutting down or hiding at home with family during treatment, Daub opted to turn her illness into opportunity, a chance to make a cheeky statement, raise awareness of the importance of women being checked for breast cancer, and to raise some money for the hospital treating her cancer.
Daub contacted Sarah Snood in England, who was running a campaign where she posted a daily photo of herself in new headwear, to raise both money for her local cancer hospital, and awareness, in the form of encouraging others to get checked regularly for signs of breast cancer. Daub asked Snood if she would mind if she ran basically the same campaign here in Toronto, and thus was born the ‘Check Your T*ts’ campaign, Canadian edition.
Daub will post a photo of herself in different headgear every day for either a year, or until her goal of raising $10,000 for Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is reached. The campaign started on Dec. 3.
“I hadn’t even lost my hair at that point,” said Daub.
On the day she spoke with Beach Metro News, Daub posted her 80th photo, wearing a cat-themed hat sent to her from an online supporter she’s never met before. The caption asked, “Have you checked your t*ts lately? Today would be the purrfect time to do so.”
The reaction so far has been very positive, she said, with more than $3,000 raised through canadahelps.org (tax receipts are available, and Daub doesn’t have to deal with receiving and passing on donations).
Even more encouraging, she said, are the comments from those who actually have gone on to get checked.
“I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve made appointments for mammograms, and that’s amazing,” she said.
Daub recently found out her chemotherapy would be discontinued before reaching its conclusion, because of a bad reaction to the chemicals in the second stage. While she said the idea of stopping chemo early is scary, it’s also a bit of a relief, after the harsh effects the treatments had.
“I spent a lot of time on the couch watching Downton Abbey,” she said, choosing to point out one of the few positive sides to chemotherapy.
Daub invites hat donations, most of which she plans to pass on when the campaign has wrapped up. Hats have been sent by both online-only and real-life friends and supporters from around the world.
“When I’m finished I’m going to donate the ones that I can to other cancer patients,” she said.
Not all of them are up for donation, however. The first large selection of headwear came from Daub’s mother in Florida, who, Daub said with a laugh, “turned out to be like the Emelda Marcos of hats.”
Next up is radiation treatment – and more hats and wigs, of course. Daub said her mother now tells her she can’t start her day in Florida without seeing a new photo.
While she says she was never a hat person before, the challenge has likely made her into one for life. And for someone who trained in fashion design, the lack of previous experience with headwear is a bit ironic.
“Now I’m kicking myself for not taking the extra millinery course,” she said.