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Hats Off for Holly!

Last July, Holly Avidan’s world stopped when a surgical biopsy on her lymph node revealed she had stage three follicular lymphoma. She immediately began seeing Harbin Clinic Oncologist Dr. Gregory Harris at the Cancer Center. To keep her spirits up, she also started crocheting hats for herself.  What Holly didn’t expect was her therapeutic crochet work created a ripple of joy for other cancer patients in the northwest Georgia area. This month, Harbin Clinic is celebrating Holly’s remission almost a year after her first chemotherapy treatment while also highlighting the extraordinary way Holly brightened the lives of others during some of her own difficult days.

To call Holly’s creations merely hats does not do them justice. Holly crochets fantastic costumes. They often cover a person’s head, neck and shoulders, and Holly sometimes dresses to match her designs from head to toe. Originally, when Holly learned she would lose her hair, she planned to find herself a wig. But it was only when her hair began to come out in handfuls that the experience shocked her, and she shaved her head quickly. With no wig and the exhaustion of chemotherapy setting in, Holly turned to working on intricate crochet patterns to keep herself calm. Soon, Holly couldn’t go to work, but crocheting kept her busy and boosted her mood.

At her next chemotherapy appointment, she proudly donned her first hat, a witch’s hat for October, and the waiting room loved it.

“When you walk into a cancer center, you are faced with a room full of people who are tired and not happy to be there,” Holly says. “But when I walked in with my hat on, the room lit up with smiles. It made me feel good to bring joy to someone else’s life, and I thought I better make a hat for every chemotherapy treatment from here on out.”

Holly had 21 days between each treatment, and although she was not always feeling great, she would work on a new design. People selling crochet patterns online even began sending her designs for free. Her work ranged in size and theme including projects like a flamingo, a chicken, a piranha plant from Nintendo, a Christmas tree, and more.

“I took a lot of life for granted before,” Holly remembers, “And when I found out I had cancer, I was devastated. The future was uncertain, and chemo sounded terrible. But I soon realized if I sat there dwelling on what was going on, I wasn’t going to feel good. But if you have something you can do that you love, things won’t bother you as much. I encourage others with similar diagnoses to keep your mind busy.”

Once Holly’s hats began to make a regular appearance, she would arrive early for appointments to chat with people in the waiting room who had hat questions.

“I circled Holly’s appointment on my calendar, knowing that she would energize the entire clinic. The staff knew when she was coming and could not wait to see her. Her art always made my day. She stayed so positive throughout her treatment, and it made such a difference. Cancer is a physical and emotional challenge. I always tell patients to stay active, eat as clean as possible, and to stay positive, and they will do better. She exemplified that every week,” says Dr. Gregory Harris.

“It was a difficult season,” admits Holly, “but I had the best experience I could have had at the Harbin Clinic Cancer Center. The nurses and doctors are great listeners and answer questions at all hours. I’ll never forget how proud I was when the nurses told me they were happy I was getting better, but they would miss seeing me and the hats.”

Hats off to Holly Avidan this September, Lymphoma Awareness Month, and Harbin Clinic thanks you for sharing your passion with other cancer patients over the past year.

Published September 12, 2023

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