Cancer Lesson #78: How to Create a Legacy

This cancer lesson is from a post on my other blog. 

Cancer Lesson #78: How to create a legacy

How do you create a legacy? If you’re a philanthropic billionaire, you might donate money to a school or a hospital or a children’s home in the hope they’ll name it after you. If you’re an earthbound saint like Mother Theresa, you give up your worldly goods and spend your time ministering to the poor.

And if you’re my friend Pat, you create a legacy by being who you are and sharing your gift for quilting by making them for others. Pat has created quilts for new babies, weddings, the Guthrie Center (she’s a huge Arlo fan), and for charity auctions including Relay for Life and the Ovarian Quilt Project. She even made one for me, which I wrote about last April, though I’m still not sure what I did to deserve it. friendshipquilt

However, a big part of Pat’s legacy is the way she’s dealt with ovarian cancer — continuing to live her life with laughter and fun, through its trials and pain, exhibiting more strength and grace than most of us could muster.

Now, she’s receiving hospice care, which you already know if you read either of my blogs. What you don’t know is how the quilting community has rallied round to make sure Pat’s legacy continues.

First, two  women in her quilting guild and another friend offered to help finish the quilts Pat still had in progress. Then, the rest of the guild volunteered to take charge of the fabric in Pat’s sewing room — a huge task since there’s enough to open a small quilt shop. The group plans to use the fabric to make quilts to donate to charities in Pat’s name.

I have to pause to compose myself whenever I tell people this because it always makes me cry.

<deep breath>

But Pat’s legacy is bigger than that. Like me, she started following “Tall Tales from Chiconia,” the blog of a fellow cancer survivor and quilter who lives in Australia. This blogger was organizing a quilting event called Foot²Freestyle, where 12 members from around the world (USA, UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, and Australia) were assigned a month to receive three blocks from each other member and make three of their own to compose into a quilt. The blocks are 12″ square (the “Foot²”) and could be made in any design the quilter chooses (the “Freestyle”). The recipient could choose three colors for her quilt.

Pat was to be “Miss May,” and her colors included teal, which is associated with ovarian cancer support. But things changed.

<deep breath>

The group responded by bumping her up. Not only are they making the quilt for Pat, who will donate it to the quilt project, they somehow through the magic of computers, created a virtual quilt for her, in case it isn’t done in time. (There’s an awful lot of mailing involved with quilt squares coming from three continents.) Here it is. Gorgeous, don’t you think?pats-virtual-quilt

There’s more. Kate, author of “Tall Tales of Chiconia,” has asked her fellow bloggers to share this story, along with information about the symptoms of that sneaky bastard ovarian cancer and a link to their country’s national ovarian cancer support organization. In the US, that organization is the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. 

The symptoms, alas, are equally vague no matter where you live. As Kate put it:

“We urge you to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of ovarian cancer — symptoms which are so common and so ephemeral that many don’t consider them symptoms at all. For this reason, ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed in its early stages, often leading to a poor prognosis. Some of you reading this are men, in which case, please pass the information to your mothers, wives, sisters or daughters. It’s important.”

Here are the symptoms, quoted directly from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance website: “Women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Several studies show that even early stage ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms.

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

See your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of one month and the symptoms are new or unusual for you.

Kate has also offered to make a quilt for the Australian Ovarian Cancer organization and invited her fellow bloggers to either join her or make a similar offer to the organization where they live.

And now, I have a favor to ask. To help spread Pat’s legacy, I hope you will please share this post, or at least the symptoms and a link to the Ovarian Cancer Alliance.

Because we all have Pats in our lives.

<deep breath>

And it’s very hard to lose them.


Cancer Lesson #77: It’s Not Always All About Me

I feel guilty writing this post because this lesson is the kind where someone else gets the pain, and I get the lesson.

Clearly, this isn’t fair — which makes it partly a repeat of Lesson #43 — but it’s different too, because this post is about a friend just reached the stage where it was time to call hospice.

This seems very wrong, especially since she was diagnosed after me, and yet, we’ve known for some time it would come to this.

Up til now, I’ve managed to not think about it, reasoning (or rationalizing) quite logically that I would deal with it when it comes.

Except it’s not me who has to deal with it; it’s her.

I can only do and be whatever my friend needs or wants. And sometimes she doesn’t know what that is. After all — as she’s pointed out several times — she’s never done this before either.

“Put yourself in her shoes,” I think. “What would you want?”

But I am not my friend, and this has nothing to do with what I want — or even what she really wants, for that matter. That option is no longer on the table.

So, I will visit when she is up to it, bring her sundaes and applesauce for as long as she can eat them, make stupid jokes, and sometimes cry. I will try to remember to listen more and talk less, to continue to enjoy the friendship we have shared for more than fifteen years.

And I will send this post into cyberspace, asking you — my friends and followers — to spare a moment for a prayer, or a wish, or some positive thoughts that my friend will go out of this life with all the love with which she’s lived it.

I will remind myself that it’s not about me.

Still, here I am writing this post, making it about me.
And in the end, it kind of is — just a little — for I am losing my friend.


These tables are from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, an organization that raises awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and supports research for a cure. Ovarian cancer is a particularly sneaky disease, rarely diagnosed in its early stages.
I hope you will take note of the symptoms.