July 28, 2010

Quilting as a Cure for Cancer

I got lucky. They caught my cancer early.

It could easily have gone un-noticed. But Dr. Suzanne, my surgeon, found it and so now we're preparing for multiple rounds of surgery. Because of my history of developing cysts, my age, and the kind of cancer they found ("silent cancer" - a type that can be seen only with an MRI or in tissue removed by a surgical biopsy), we are opting for a double mastectomy and the removal of my remaining ovary for the safety and peace of mind these procedures will give me. This seems a bit radical until you understand that I've had 11 biopsies in about a year (new cysts developing continually) and since they can't explain why this is happening, there's no way to stop it. And you really can't afford to ignore cysts - especially since I have developed this sneaky bastard "Silent Cancer." So it's either get a mastectomy or move in with Dr. Suzanne and get an MRI done about every other week.

She tells me that the cancer is small, early. With a mastectomy at this stage, no chemo or radiation will be necessary. So, yes, I'm counting my blessings.

My mother found breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy last year - at the age of 80. Her cancer was much more advanced than mine and she had to endure chemo - and losing her hair. Just try and imagine that. At the age of 80. Lordy. She decided against reconstruction, having recently been widowed and wanting so much to put it all behind her. I remember her telling me how she'd worried about pain only to be pleasantly surprised at how much better she felt than anticipated. I've heard the same story from other cancer survivors who opted to skip reconstruction.

With reconstruction, however, the stories are a bit different. My beloved Cousin Beth (who went through this 3 years ago) tells me that she found it pretty darned uncomfortable, but not "unbearable." Knowing her experience is comforting because what I'm reading about the experiences of other women, well... it's unsettling.

But I'm only 54. And I'm happily married to a man whom I often describe (with much justification) as "a prince." I want to have breasts, even if they aren't "real" like the ones I was born with. So, OK. It's gonna hurt for a while. But I want breasts.

I'm preparing for a post-operative experience which may include periods when moving my arms and lifting even light things is difficult.

Still.. must quilt... must quilt...

I look at my stash of projects and calculate. I'll need some small projects. Table runners, maybe placemats, maybe a baby quilt or two. Things that don't demand a lot from my arms and pectoral muscles.

I don't know what kind of discomfort I'm going to face with my reconstruction but I do know this: I have simply GOT to be able to continue quilting.

I must have my "drug of choice" (a sandwich of fabric and batting, needle and thread).

So off I go now - back to the fabric stores and quilting shops. Looking at fat quarters, tossing together some designs, and so on. I'll be a busy girl for a couple of weeks as I await my surgery date. I'm busy now designing, buying, cutting, piecing, and sandwiching. My goal is to have at least 4 smallish projects ready for stitching when I enter the hospital, maybe a couple of medium-sized ones for the days when I'm stronger but still not really able to drive.

No, quilting will not cure cancer. But it might just keep me from dying of boredom.

So me and my quilting hoop - we're gonna kick cancer's BUTT!

July 21, 2010

Quilt 3: FINISHED!

What's that you say? How could I possibly have finished another quilt in only a week? Well... I started the 3rd quilt some time ago and have been alternately working on number 2 and number 3.

Here's quilt 3:

This one is not my own design - it's a kit that I bought at "Patchwork With Gail B." It's a small "throw" size quilt, not a bedspread. I had a ball putting it together and making it up - especially since I intended from the start to give it to my very dear friend Julie B. as a special birthday present.

Let's do the math:

99 "snowball" blocks made up of 5 pieces each: 495 pieces
boarder: 4 pieces

499 pieces! (Not including the binding and backing.)

I learned a couple of things as a result of this quilt:
  1. I really enjoy having projects of different sizes - and although this wasn't as challenging as a larger quilt, it was great to have something small enough to be really "portable." I took this one with me on the plane when hubby and I visited Aunt Sheila in Ballina. It fitted neatly into the suitcase and gave me a relaxing "something to do" in the hotel before going to bed.

  2. This is the second quilt that I've tried doing a patterned border stitch on. I found that with fabric prints this "busy" the fancier stitches can be waste of time. Simple straight lines would've made more sense. I quilted this with a cream cotton thread - and the stitches just don't show up much. The swirling pattern on the green border going around this quilt is virtually invisible.

July 14, 2010

Quilt 2: FINISHED!!!!

It's done! It's done! (insert trumpet fanfare - Tahn-tah-dah!)

Here's the back (not much to look at, I agree):

And a closeup of the back stitching along the edge:

And the top. I'm thrilled to pieces. The bed is a queensize, but I made the quilt much larger than a queen (nearly king size) because I wanted the stars to hang over the sides and the drop to be a lot longer than you might usually have. That's because the mattress is one of those "latex" mattresses and it's very deep.

Here's another view - our bedroom is quite small but the floor-to-ceiling windows which make up the north-facing wall bring in a lot of light and the spectacular view of our Mountain Ash forest.

As you can see in these pictures, the "bed skirt" isn't long enough. I'm going to have to construct a new one with the appropriate length. I've not decided yet whether to make the skirt maroon/wine or gold.

July 7, 2010

It Was Bound To Happen

I'm close - really close - to being done with quilt number 2. Very exciting!

I decided to take a couple of photos of the soon-to-be-bound project and write a little blurb here about it. So I grabbed my camera and headed to the loungeroom, where my huge quilt project lay sprawling over the couch.

I took the photo - and just after doing that, realized I had a problem.

Here's the photo:

What's the problem? Well... just above my hand you can see the thread that I'm currently stitching into the quilt, right? Right. Can you see the needle? Hmmmmmmm?

When I finish stitching for the night, I weave the needle into the quilt so that it's held nice and tight - and will be easy to find the next day. But last night? Obviously I messed up - and the needle, left to it's own devices, has obviously chosen to go wandering.

I searched and searched through the folds of the top - feeling around, looking closely. No needle. My heart sank.

Maybe it was on the floor? Oh, no. It would be MOST unpleasant to find that needle with my feet (worse... what if I don't find it and hubby steps on it - YIKES!). Then I lifted the edge of the quilt and looked down at the seat. BINGO.

BIG sigh of relief!!!!