Story by Kim Willis
Photography By Kari Lynn & Roger Hewett
With no history of cancer in her family, the last thing that Kari Hewett expected was a diagnosis of breast cancer last March. The 36 year-old mentioned in passing at a routine doctor’s appointment that she had found a lump on her breast.
“It was a real shock to get the diagnosis,” says Kari. “It was a very strange feeling. But after the shock I had an overwhelming feeling of relief that I was in Canada and was receiving excellent care. I am intensely grateful to be here.”
Kari moved with her husband Roger to Leamington last year. Roger is the Musical Director with Cirque du Soleil’s production “Corteo.” As such, Roger and Kari have spent a lot of time travelling the world. Kari also has an artistic background. Primarily a singer, she has also done work with photography, mixed media and some front-of-house work for Cirque du Soleil.
Within weeks of her diagnosis, Kari underwent surgery to remove the cancer. To ensure the cancer does not return she has been having chemotherapy at the Windsor Regional Cancer Center since May. Like many individuals who receive chemotherapy, Kari lost her hair.
“I took losing my hair really hard. It’s a mark of identity; essentially a piece of how you express yourself to others.”
While shaving her head Kari was reminded that she always wanted to try a Mohawk. She soon found herself going through her art supplies and posed with faux fur on her head. As an artist, she decided to embark on an inspiring project, using her chemo hair loss as a blank canvas and creating a photography project entitled 'Stuff on my Head'.
Initially Kari posted to her own Facebook page and shared the photos with friends. However, it was soon suggested that she do more with it. She then started sharing the photos with other cancer groups and created a separate Facebook group page at facebook.com/groups/stuffonmyhead. Alternately, in hopes of extending her reach to more people, Kari put up a community page at facebook.com/stuffonmyhead.
Many people undergoing similar health problems, with the addition of alopecia, have been very touched by her uplifting photos and inspiration, and given Kari all sorts of ideas as to how to develop this project, so that it may positively inspire others suffering hair loss.
“She has become an important member of the local arts scene here in Leamington and is loved by so many, especially with the support she is getting with this recent diagnosis,” says Roger.
Thus far, Kari has done 14 photos. Initially she took the photos herself, but she has since allowed Roger to take a couple.
“The response has been overwhelming positive. A lot of people love it which is inspiring to me and they get to see that I still have my sense of humour.”
Kari’s illness has given her a new outlook on a cancer diagnosis.
“Cancer is everywhere and touches so many people. However, I find that many people don’t want to talk about it. That has been one of the greatest things about “Stuff on my Head.” People approach me and talk about cancer. It’s a way to break the ice and talk about cancer in a way that’s not too dark.”
Moving forward, Kari hopes to keep the project going as long as she can. She is also looking for other people to collaborate with in an effort to share their emotions. “The whole thing has been a life-changing experience. It has altered the way that I look at myself and the people in my life. The more people that I can reach with these photos, the more helpful I may be in brightening their outlook.”