When I decided to share on my blog and social media about my breast cancer, I received an overwhelming amount of support. So many people sent me messages of prayer and healing and love. Not one single person suggested that breast cancer isn’t really that bad and I should quit whining. No one told me it was selfish or wrong to focus on breast cancer when there are so many other kinds of cancer out there killing people every day. My #breastcancer hashtags were never answered with a chiding #allcancer hashtag. People recognized that I needed to focus on the fight I had in front of me, the breast cancer fight. People thanked me for “being brave” and sharing my story. People extended me grace.
And now, in the wake of a truly awful week of racial violence in my country, I’m left wondering why we can’t extend that same grace to our black brothers and sisters who are suffering from the cancer of a long history of injustice? Why do white Americans get so defensive and ruffled up when someone says #blacklivesmatter, as if they had said #onlyblacklivesmatter? No one ever reads #breastcancer as #onlybreastcancer. Why do we feel the need to minimize black Americans’ experiences? To tell them they are wrong to focus on the fight they have front of them?
I don’t get the compulsive need to say #alllivesmatter. Of course all lives matter. No one said they didn’t. I was devastated by the killings in Dallas. For goodness sake, I cry when strangers post on Facebook about their dogs dying. How could you possibly think all lives don’t matter to me?
I experienced a lot of pain and suffering because of my breast cancer. And our black brothers and sisters are experiencing a lot of pain and suffering because of the injustice they and their families face due to the color of their skin. You listened to my story when I was in pain. Will you not listen with an open heart to their stories of pain? Will you not extend them the grace you extended to me? When you see #blacklivesmatter can you not accept it as an expression of the fight someone is facing in their own life, in the same way #breastcancer was an expression of the fight I faced?
Many of you have asked me in the last year what you could do for me. And this is my answer: You can take all that amazing prayer and healing and love you gave me and give it to people who are hurting in your communities. Black lives matter.
If you had told me on my 45th birthday that I would be a cancer survivor by my 46th birthday, I probably would have told you to f$&@ off. Why the hell would I get cancer?
And then of course I got cancer. But even then I would have told you that cancer wasn’t going to affect my life. I was just going to get through my treatment and get on with my life. (This is the part where God laughs in my face.)
So here I am, a 46 year old cancer survivor. I am also a daughter, a stepmother, a cat mom, a cousin, a niece, a friend, a coworker, a boss, an employee. This year has taught me the true value of those roles and the relationships they represent. I didn’t want to lose my identity to cancer and now I see that was never really a possibility. Now I know that “cancer survivor” means I did something that was really hard, that I am capable of doing things that are really hard, and I’m happy to add that role to my list.
It’s hard to get a good picture with this hairdo. My eyes and my teeth look huge, my neck looks scrawny and you can’t really see the way my hair sticks straight up on top (or how much I love the fact that my hair sticks straight up on top). The camera doesn’t capture the softness I see in my face…the serenity…the strength.
Fate whispers to the warrior “You cannot withstand the storm.” And the warrior whispers back “I am the storm.”
This quote was a mantra that helped me get through chemotherapy. Now it is just a quiet knowledge in my heart. Now my life resets, and I love a good reset. I relish the opportunity to think about and choose the things I want to spend my time doing. This is 46. And I love it.
It’s times like these you learn to live again. -Foo Fighters
Mom brought me this gorgeous hanging geranium today to celebrate the halfway point of my radiation treatments. Two more weeks and I’m done with breast cancer treatment.
Spring has sprung with a vengeance in these parts with bright beautiful warm days. The cherry tree next door bloomed this morning.
And I finally got back out in the woods for a short hike yesterday. It smelled so damn good out there!
I set up a sewing area at home and made block 16 of the Splendid Sampler. I made soup and baked bread and watched a baseball game.
My ambitions are quite a bit bigger than my energy levels at this point, but I’m slowly, slowly, slowly recovering and finding my way back to some sort of routine.
Last fall when I was waiting for my treatment to start I had fleeting thoughts of achieving things while I was laid up…reading important books, practicing Spanish, catching up watching online art classes. Ha! In reality I read murder mysteries, watched Gilmore Girls and surfed the Internet on my iPad looking at quilts and crochet. I didn’t have the energy to focus on anything else.
I’m learning to be ok with that. It’s too easy to feel like that time was “wasted.” I’m trying to shift that thinking…to think of it as a fallow time. Just this week new ideas for life and art have begun bubbling to the surface. I’m so thankful for this opportunity to reset, for this warm weather, for this beautiful spring.
As soon as I finished gushing about gorgeous crochet in my last post, the Splendid Sampler folks released Block 11, Crocheted Thoughts by Alyssa Thomas of Penguin and Fish, made to honor her grandmother who loved to crochet doilies. My grandma crocheted too and I fondly remember long quiet summer afternoons spent reading a book while Grandma Jean worked on her latest project.
And when I showed all the crochet yumminess to my mom and explained that it was mostly granny squares? Yeah, she got all excited and started crocheting granny squares from her collection of soft fuzzy scarf yarns.
I started an embroidery piece on felted wool inspired by the crochet deliciousness.
And I got back to work on my current crochet project, this soft drapey color block shawl.
(Despite wanting something simple and color-blocky when I started this, now I’m thinking how pretty it would look with some embroidered flowers. I have trouble stopping my brain sometimes.)
But really, is it any surprise that I broke down and bought a bunch of yarn to crochet my very own medallion blanket?
I’m completely obsessed with this crocheted blanket from French blog Clothogancho. If there were a pattern, I would just make it as is, that’s how much I’m in love with this. But there’s no pattern and the blog is in French so I’ve had to be more creative in breaking down what I love about this piece.
Here’s another blanket from the same French maker.
And one more. I love all of these. But why? And more importantly, if I wanted to make something similar, where would I start?
I’ve been studying these pictures as well as poring over Pinterest and Ravelry for similar ideas and figured out the elements that are making me swoon.
Like most art, I’m initially drawn in by the use of color. This piece from Buscando Comienzos (Is there some reason I must obsess over things written in foreign languages? And why doesn’t Google Translate work better?) shows how different the humble granny square can look when you mix up the color placement. Plus it’s scrappy. A big part of what I like about the Clothogancho pieces is the subtle variation in color that comes from using a lot of different colors.
In spite of (or perhaps in reaction to?) the bright clear colors I’m using in my Splendid Sampler quilt, I’m drawn to the rich, greyed colors in this blanket by Magda de Lange, similar to the palettes in the Clothogancho pieces.
And then there’s the pattern. This beautiful blanket by Ros Badger uses color placement to create a medallion. Clothogancho takes the medallion motif one step farther, using both color placement and border rows to create pieces that look like more like exotic Persian rugs than simple granny square afghans.
What will I do with all these elements now that I’ve broken them down to manageable bites? I have a couple of ideas cooking in my head. From what I can figure out from Google Translate, the amazingly skilled and talented Clothogancho maker prefers to just start making and figure it out as she goes. Seems like a great plan to me…
First, I’m so excited to announce that I’m now a contributor on my cousin Karen’s blog Shiny Objects! Karen has an amazing and powerful voice and I’m just honored to be a part of what she is creating. You can read my first post here.
On the health front, I’m very s-l-o-w-l-y recovering from chemotherapy. Even two months ago after my first two treatments, I would have told you the pain and fatigue I’m feeling today was pretty bad. But today, three weeks out from the final two treatments? Today I’m all “hey I can walk to the kitchen without collapsing in a chair to catch my breath and wait for the pain to subside! Praise the Lord and pass the steroids!” Today I understand the true meaning of “cumulative fatigue” and “debilitating muscle pain.” Hopefully I’ve turned the corner on that part of the journey and now I can focus on finishing radiation and healing my body.
Remember a few weeks ago when I was contemplating how crazy it would be to start a 100 block quilt-a-long?
Well call me crazy! The 7th block of The Splendid Sampler was released today and I have completed the first 6 blocks.
It’s become a bit of a ritual with mom asking me if I have any quilt blocks to make as a way to get me out of bed and moving around.
My quilting skills are rusty and my blocks are a little wonky and I don’t care. I’m not making a masterpiece here. I’m making this because I love to play with the brightly colored fabrics and because the making is healing me.
I know that as I move forward it will become easier to make these blocks as I regain physical strength. It will also become harder to make these blocks as I regain my busy life. With any luck, a year from now I’ll have a healthy body and 100 quilt blocks.
I finished this little (5″ x 7″) piece yesterday.
And sketched out the next piece in the series today. I made three backgrounds with the intention of playing with portraits in my stitched collage style. I was clearly under the influence of my new tube of quinacrodone nickel azo gold when I painted these. I’m trying to be looser with my faces to give them more life; to let them emerge rather than force some sort of symmetry. These rather androgynous figures were an interesting surprise.
Posted in collage, color, drawing, embroidery, mixed media, painting, stitched collage
Tagged embroidery, mixed media, painting, portrait, stitched collage
I made this quilt block yesterday.
This one too. These are the first two blocks in The Splendid Sampler quilt-a-long by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson. They are small, only 6 inches, but they feel like a huge accomplishment and they are making me so happy!
A few years ago I took a total body boot camp circuit training class. Making these blocks felt a bit like that class. One of the cumulative side effects of my chemotherapy is muscle pain and fatigue. How this works in real life is that when I use my arms and legs to do anything my muscles burn like I’m back in boot camp class. Ironing and cutting fabric feels like doing dead lifts or push-ups. I needed a big glass of water and some rest breaks to get it done.
Why bother? For one thing, if I don’t use my muscles I’m afraid I’ll never be able to use them again. For another, makers gonna make. All this enforced rest has meant a ton of time looking at blogs and magazines and I’m filled up with inspiration. I want to make all the things! But most of all, sitting at that sewing machine felt awesome! Sewing these blocks made me feel like a normal, competent human after so many weeks of being down for the count.