Humiliation caps off agonising year

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A new Officer entertainment complex has apologised after a Pakenham woman suffering from cancer was “humiliated” to tears after being told by staff to remove her chemotherapy cap.

Sharon McLeish was approached by staff within moments of entering the newly opened Club Officer on Thursday 23 June for a few plays on the poker machines and was asked to remove the head scarf covering her bald head.

It had been the 57-year-old’s first outing unaccompanied since beginning chemotherapy.

“It’s just insulting,” Ms McLeish said.

“I’ve never been so humiliated. No one with cancer should go through this.”

Pakenham Racing Club’s Wade Calderwood said new staff at Club Officer had mistaken their protocol on ‘no hats’ which gives exception to those with a medical reason or certain religious beliefs.

“The Pakenham Racing Club has investigated this unfortunate incident.

“We have been in contact directly with our member and her husband to express our sincere apologies for the misunderstanding,” Mr Calderwood said.

“New procedures are being implemented immediately to ensure this type of incident does not happen again.”

Ms McLeish was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer in October last year and has worn the chemotherapy cap since Melbourne Cup Day.

She has been a member of Club Officer’s sister venue the Cardinia Club for many years on and off over the past decade.

“Everywhere I go, I’ve never been asked to remove my cap. I go to Cardinia Club all the time and it’s never been an issue,” Ms McLeish said.

“When you have chemo, it sort of isolates you. Instead of getting on with your life and being treated like everybody else, I feel segregated.

“It was obvious that I have no hair underneath the cap and I explained that to them. Now feel like I can’t go to any of their clubs. It’s a fear to anyone with cancer.

“I just left because I didn’t want to be continuously attacked. I’m bald so, you know what, I’m not going to take it off.”

Ms McLeish’s daughter Kylie said the family had planned to have dinner there later this week but would no longer be doing so.

“It’s discrimination,” Kylie said.

“I’ve never seen my mum cry like this before. It’s disgusting, no one has the right to do that.

“Her cap is like a head scarf that is a recognised and specially designed chemotherapy cap.

“There is a big difference between someone wearing a baseball hat or a big-brimmed hat and a cap to protect the dignity of someone having chemo.”

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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