Mad Hatters set tea time

Breast cancer survivors inject humor with magnificent millinery

Mad Hatters Tea

When: 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 10

Where: Sunland Golf & Country Club, 109 Hilltop Drive, Sequim

Tickets: $30, call Arlene McClelland, 681-4815



For the 17th consecutive year, and still in memory of their late friend Jan Chatfield who inspired them to go a little crazy even in the face of breast cancer, a core group of women and 175 of their closest friends will gather for the Mad Hatters Tea on Friday, Oct. 10.

“The organization started as a small venue to cheer up Jan Chatfield who was battling breast cancer for the second time,” said Linda Klinefelter, one of the tea’s organizers and former patient navigator at the Olympic Medical Cancer Center. “A group of friends wanted to get together for support and then it morphed into 50 people. Unfortunately, Jan died nine months after the first event in 1997.”

Inspired by the magnificent millinery of the Mad Hatter of “Alice in Wonderland,” wearing hats to the function always has been part and parcel of the fun.

“We’ve always had hats — it was part of the lightheartedness of the first event, to put some fun into something extremely serious,” Klinefelter said. “Having been the patient navigator and working with breast cancer patients, the idea of making it kind of crazy was important.”

Some hats are wild in their size and color combinations; others are outrageous and mock the disease by the wearers sporting artificial prostheses on their heads, some quite anatomically correct.

“It’s the one time they can laugh at themselves,” Klinefelter said. “Each table will vote on the ‘most phenomenal’ hat at the table and the winner takes home the centerpiece, a paper teapot made by Kate Creasey.”

Klinefelter noted, “A breast cancer patient loses so much: her hair, her breast(s), dealing with the side effects of chemo, the possible loss of her lymph nodes, then getting lymphedema. There’s just so much that goes on with breast cancer patients. All cancers are serious but women face so much in their femininity. Not only do they lose their hair but all their body hair — that’s our adornment, part of our femininity, part of who they are, and that’s all the more reason to find humor in it.”

One of the most treasured and touching features of the tea is when survivors stand when years of survival are counted down from 25 years plus to 1-5 years.

“To see survivors of 25 or 30 years, we see we’ve come a long way,” Klinefelter said. “The upside is to know we have survivors of 20-plus years but the downside is the amount of women standing because we’re finding more and more breast cancer in women under age 35 and it’s not uncommon for women under 25 to be diagnosed.”

Toward that end, after expenses Mad Hatters will donate $2,000 to Operation Uplift, an all volunteer group, so it can provide mammograms, wigs and prostheses for uninsured and under-insured breast cancer patients; and $2,000 to the Olympic Medical Cancer Center patient navigator program, earmarked for financial assistance, transportation and nutrition for women battling breast cancer.

This year’s educational speaker will be radiologist Dr. Hampton Sessions of Olympic Medical Center and as is tradition, a survivor will tell her story. Susan Clements, the current OMCC patient navigator, will have an information table on its programs and auxiliary services.

In addition to Klinefelter, the following women also organized the 17th annual Mad Hatters Tea: Sandy Davidson, Pennie Dickin, Ginny Friess, Sky Heatherton, Jan Kummet, Arlene McClelland, Mary O’Brien and Vonnie Putnam. Corporate sponsors are Advanta Dental, Olympic Medical Center and Sound Community Bank.