When Mary Anne Fischer, 74, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last November, she knew she was going to lose her hair.
After enduring surgery and starting her first round of chemotherapy, the Mission Viejo resident had her daughter cut off her long locks.
"I didn't want to deal with cleaning up all the long hair that was falling out," she said.
Many women who are receiving cancer treatment have trouble coming to terms with the idea that they will soon be bald, said Julie Chad, an oncology nurse at Gynecologic Oncology Associates in Newport Beach.
"Hair is so much part of a woman's identity," she said.
Women who don't want to wear wigs, which can be hot and uncomfortable, often wear knitted or crocheted caps. For this reason, Christine Fabiani founded the nonprofit Knots of Love, which provides free caps to cancer patients.
Fabiani, who lives in Newport Beach, came up with the idea for her nonprofit after her son asked her to knit him a beanie. While the first one wasn't exactly a perfect design, she continued practicing and decided she would donate what she created. After failing to find a nonprofit that would accept them, she started Knots of Love.
In the past seven years, the nonprofit has grown tremendously, with hundreds of people knitting caps each day for donation.
Fabiani's first gift was to the Gynecologic Oncology Associates office, near Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. So it was only fitting that on Thursday morning, seven years after her first donation, Fabiani dropped off at the office a bag containing her 200,000th cap.
The caps come in a variety of colors, some with patterns, and others are adorned with decorative flowers or ribbons.
"It's hard to believe it's grown so quickly," she said of the nonprofit. "I love coming back here. It's all come full circle."
Enter Fischer, a patient who was receiving chemotherapy in the office Thursday morning. She selected three caps from Fabiani's bag — a white one with silver beads, a pink cap with a white ribbon and a teal cap that matched the blouse she wore to the doctor's office.
After making her selections, she pulled off the black cap she had worn that day, exposing her almost nonexistent hair, and tried on the bright pink cap, smiling as she asked her friend how it looked.
The oncology office serves about 400 cancer patients each month and gives them their choice of a scarf, wig or cap when they begin chemotherapy. The Knots of Love caps, with their colorful designs, are the most popular selections for most patients, said Dr. John Micha.
"It gives them something to look forward to," Fabiani said.
Fischer, who was once a teacher, was excited to receive her caps and expressed gratitude toward Fabiani, her family, friends and her doctor at the office, Mark Rettenmaeir.