Nancy Hofmann already has her hat for the 21st Mad Hatter’s luncheon and tea party all planned out.
To celebrate her 20th year in attendance, Hofmann and her friends are sporting an “Alice in Wonderland” theme with top hats, white gloves and adding a white rabbit and the color pink somewhere into the mix.
This year’s luncheon is set for Friday, Oct. 5, at Sequim Community Church, with funds raised going toward breast cancer awareness and organizations supporting women fighting breast cancer as well as survivors.
Hofmann, 73, is a Mad Hatter’s committee member who, along with many other breast cancer survivors and advocates prepares a hat each year for the annual tea party and luncheon.
Over the two decades she’s attended the event, Hofmann has worn a variety of hats inspired by different women and themes; one year she and friends had a Jackie Kennedy-theme, while other years she’s worn wigs, tiaras and more.
Hofmann said she believes these funds can benefit women fighting breast cancer. A two-time breast cancer survivor who’s seen treatment and detection methods evolve over 20 years, Hofmann was first diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in 1990.
“You expected you were going to die (at that time),” Hofmann says.
“With breast cancer, it can always come back,” she adds. “It was amazing I made it to five years (in remission).”
She also lives with lymphedema, an after-effect of cancer treatment that causes fluid retention due to damage or blockage of lymphatic vessels. Some of Hofmann’s lymph nodes were cut during cancer treatment, which resulted in lymphedema (blockages in the lymphatic system).
When Hofmann asked medical professionals about the condition in the 1990s, she says not many could give her much information about it nor could she find treatment options.
“My arm blew up like a balloon,” Hofmann says. “Lots of (breast cancer) survivors had lymphedema but (at the time) many doctors didn’t know about it.”
She tried to return to her teaching job in Alaska until the day she discovered she had lymphedema in her right arm.
While Hofmann continued to look for a way to improve lymphedema, she says she heard a mindful saying along the lines of “turn your tears into action,” and started a support group in Anchorage for breast cancer survivors.
Hofmann moved to Sequim with her husband in 1998. She said one of the reasons she chose the location was to be close to good medical care, referring to Olympic Medical Center’s Cancer Center on North Fifth Avenue.
While Hofmann thought her battle with breast cancer was over after 17 years in remission but, in 2007 she discovered tiny new tumors growing in her other breast following a mammogram. She again faced stage II breast cancer, and again she needed chemotherapy treatment.
Hofmann says she was hesitant to undergo chemo again after how harsh it was on her body the first time around.
“I never was not sick,” Hofmann says. “I decided to go through it (chemo) again because the treatments were more frequent but weaker.”
She underwent chemo for about six months in Seattle and now has been in remission — a second time — for about 10 years.
Hofmann reconnected with one of the women she met in the Anchorage support group at the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center (now YMCA of Sequim) in 1998, who told her about the Mad Hatter’s tea party and luncheon.
Local women were gathering to support resident Jan Chatfield, who wore hats as she was fighting breast cancer.
Chatfield died shortly after the event started in 1997, but the Mad Hatter’s continue the luncheon each year in her honor, to celebrate other women who are breast cancer survivors, and to raise funds.
The Mad Hatter’s later became a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit and attendance has grown since its inception.
This year’s event is set from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, at Sequim Community Church, and proceeds benefit OMC’s Cancer Center in Sequim as well as Operation Uplift.
This year’s speakers include Dr. Loraine Lovejoy-Evans, a lymphedema expert, and physical therapist Juliet Pierce, a radiation therapist at OMC and breast cancer survivor. Linda Klinefelter serves as the Mistress of Ceremonies.
For more information about the Mad Hatter’s luncheon or for ticket information, contact Linda Turner at 360-681-5395 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for event reservations are Monday, Oct. 1.
Painting through the pain
Hofmann continues to return to the event each year because she believes these funds truly help with breast cancer research and aiding organizations that support survivors.
She says she also finds enjoyment in painting her favorite hats she’s seen at the tea party over the years. Her favorite hat was worn by a woman who decorated her hat with pink butterflies one year. She took a photo of the woman wearing the hat, painted it and it sits in her Sequim home.
Hofmann also has other similar paintings that adorn the walls of her home, including a photo of her and her sister wearing hats at one of the tea parties.
She says she looks forward to this year’s luncheon and theme “pretty in pink” and hopes to bring more awareness to lymphedema.