After emergency brain surgery last summer, Megan McCance of Cherry Hill is working to recover motor function and peace of mind by returning to a lifelong hobby.
By Sarah Baldwin | February 17, 2021
Megan McCance of Cherry Hill has been sewing all her life.
From childhood lessons through to her young adulthood, the 23-year-old says she always found it to be a calming way to pass the time.
But last summer, she began to lean into the practice as a way to stitch together her mind and body after her life was derailed by a major medical emergency.
In June 2020, McCance was setting out for Atlantic City when she had a grand mal seizure on her way to her car.
X-rays revealed a large mass on the right frontal lobe of her brain, and neurosurgeons needed to act quickly to remove a cluster of small cysts.
The news, and the suddenness with which it was delivered, was stunning.
McCance wondered how she’d be able to afford an emergency craniotomy, and turned to Twitter to solicit help with the unanticipated medical bills. (Fortunately, her insurance is covering much of them.)
Surgeons were able to successfully remove most of the cysts, and found the remaining ones to be benign; McCance’s doctors are closely monitoring her situation, and she will undergo annual diagnostic MRIs to make sure she remains healthy.
Despite those promising outlooks, the pressure caused by the tumor and the scarring inside her brain left lasting effects on McCance’s quality of life.
“I’ve had issues feeling connected to my body, and with some motor skills since everything happened,” she said.
The surgery also required McCance, who works as a hairstylist, to shave her head. She began wearing hats thereafter, and customized them by hand-sewing patches to each. McCance found the process to be therapeutic.
“I always liked sewing; I took lessons as a kid,” McCance said. “And then, I thought this could be a really good thing to do to connect my hands to my body.”
In addition to helping sharpen her diminished motor skills, McCance discovered that the custom hats were a hit with friends and family, who encouraged her to start an Etsy shop, donating patches so she could sell more of them.
McCance called it Mindful Design. Its inventory includes beanies ($18) and jackets, each adorned with her hand-sewn designs.
The clothing is customized with a variety of artwork, including insects, flowers, and clever sayings, each carefully and thoughtfully applied by hand.
“It’s not about mass-producing,” McCance said. “It’s about sitting there and getting the benefit of being able to use my hands.”
Since starting her shop in January, McCance has created and sold nearly 35 hats to friends, family, and other paying customers, and has customized a number of denim jackets as well.
The Etsy income supplements her income as a stylist, which has been limited to part-time hours amid capacity limits established by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and her own endurance.
But McCance views the process of hand-sewing more as an essential piece of her recovery than as a second job.
“I see my store as a way of connecting my mind and body, and less as a source of income,” she said.
McCance is especially grateful for the outpouring of community support her shop has received.
“It’s been cool to see all these local people who I don’t even know comment on my story. It shows you that there are really good people, especially in this area,” she said.
“To have people respond with such positivity has been amazing.”
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