Serena Houlihan - February 2021
Scarves for Healing:
A Story of Hope, Love and Resilience
There is so much to love about Natalie Silva's story of hope and resilience. Somehow she turned a terrifying breast cancer diagnosis at the age of twenty-seven into her beautiful line of handmade head wraps to help women feel beautiful and stylish--and themselves--while undergoing cancer treatment. Her story is also one of a mother-daughter bond strengthened by the adversity they faced and a terrific creative partnership that grew out of her diagnosis. Read on and embrace the love and positivity in the words that follow.
What inspired you to start Scarves for Healing?
Scarves for Healing is a love project that grew out of my own experience being a twenty-seven year old woman facing breast cancer and losing my hair due to treatment. I still wanted to feel beautiful. I was still working during treatment and trying to have a regular life. I looked everywhere for a head wrap that did not make me look like I was sick.
I needed something that made me look chic, modern, and comfortable-- and made me feel like myself. After buying several head wraps and not finding what I needed, I decided to make my own. I went to the fabric store and selected fabric I actually wanted to wear.
My mom has been sewing for more than thirty years and used to make me dresses when I was small. I designed the scarf and my mother lovingly made the design a reality by creating it.
I wore my new head scarf to my chemotherapy treatments and one day a fellow woman facing cancer asked me where she could get a head scarf like mine. I told her mine was handmade by my mother and she said “I will buy this head scarf in a heartbeat.”
And that’s when I realized the need for Scarves For Healing.
I often say, “I did not get cancer for nothing.” Scarves for Healing is one of the most beautiful projects of my life. It is a project of love, hope, and resilience.
Beatriz, Natalie's mother, hand sewing a head scarf
What makes Scarves for Healing scarves so special?
There are so many reasons why Scarves For Healing are so unique and special. Our Scarves are handmade in Washington, D.C by myself, a breast cancer survivor, and my caregiver, my mom. Every order we make is filled with love and a deep understanding of the journey.
Our head scarves are “instant” head wraps which means there is no need for pins or complicated knots or ties. Our scarves come packaged in a beautiful and modern design ready for her to wear. They feature a super soft, modern, luxurious and breathable fabric, which is a blend of cotton, nylon and spandex. Because of their weight, they can be comfortably worn during any season. Most importantly, their lightweight material allows the scarf to be breathable-- great for those hot flashes.
What have you found the most rewarding about Scarves for Healing?
The most rewarding aspect about Scarves For Healing is seeing our scarves bring hope to the woman wearing it. I have seen the “before and after;" women have so much more confidence in a matter of seconds after putting it on. I get goosebumps every time I see how our scarves help her confidence during one of the most vulnerable times of her life.
How do you hope women feel when they wear your scarves?
We hope women are able to look in the mirror and see strength, beauty, and calmness during a difficult and vulnerable time in their lives as they experience hair loss or hair changes. We hope our head scarves bring their inner power front and center. We hope our head scarves help women realize that they are still there as they go through their cancer journey.
During treatment, one doesn’t always recognize themselves because of the many changes the body goes through. We want our head scarves to feel like her healing crown, their special power, and a reminder of how amazing they are.
Natalie wearing her head scarf
How has having breast cancer at such a young age affected your perspective? What lessons have you taken away from your experience?
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at twenty-seven has changed my life in so many ways. Sometimes I look at old pictures of myself and I don’t recognize her. Today, I feel stronger, more confident, more whole, though still a work in progress. I had to literally break my old self to become today’s version.
At the beginning of my cancer journey, I was angry at the world. I told my mom not to get her hopes up because my type of breast cancer was aggressive. I was trying to protect her; I did not want her to suffer. She looked in my eyes and said the words that changed everything: “If the cancer is aggressive, we will be aggressive as well.” That was a big lesson for me. Trust in the process, control what you can, and the rest just leave it to God. He is in control.
Today, I am thankful for being able to move my body every morning, for having air in my lungs, for seeing a new sun every day. Today, I’m seeking experiences that fuel my soul and ones that help people in need. Scarves For Healing fuels my soul.
What advice do you have for the family and friends of cancer patients? How can they best help?
Support systems are an essential part of the healing process for the patient, but also for the caregiver. Making sure the patient obtains the support they need is crucial. However, we must not forget to fuel the caregivers, the person making meals, taking doctor's notes when most of us have chemo brains, the partner who is awake all night after a bad night after chemotherapy sessions.
Caregivers also need to take care of themselves, look for support, do something that brings them joy and not feel guilty about it. It’s crucial that they fuel their soul, take care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally so that they can be a strong defense for their cancer warrior.
We were so excited to partner with Le Wren because they understand the value of self-care for both patient and caregiver. We love how they have curated luxurious and thoughtful care packages for all walks of life and how all the products are ready for every life struggle.
Natalie and her mother, Beatriz