Going over the top … of the quilt, that is.
So on Tuesday I had a marathon quilt block making session and by noon on Wednesday, less that 24 hours later I ended up having made up 16 blocks. I have to make it clear that this is only the front of the block, and that I had already cut out the pieces so all I had to do was put them together. Now I am wondering exactly what to do with them all. Then I had a bright idea (“light bulb”) that I am helping to organise an All-Ways Healthy week at the college where I work that will be covering several aspects of health from the physical, mental, emotional to leisure and food. The first day we have the Teenage Cancer Trust coming and I was thinking that maybe I would use the quilt to feature some of the young people who have died from, or have this disease. The college learners (not supposed to call them students now!) are mainly 16 – 19 years old and at that age they think that they are immortal and that cancer can’t effect someone young. Part of the Teenage Cancer Trust’s message is around testicular and skin cancer which do effect the young. We have had learners at the college who have had testicular cancer, and we have raised funds for them in memory of one of our students who died of cancer while she was at the college.
As part of my ‘Lost Inspiration’ project I have come across several people in their 20’s who have had Metastatic Breast Cancer, and some of them have sadly lost their lives to this disease and some have left small children to grow up without their mother. While the intent is not to scare anyone the message needs to get out that younger people are also at risk of getting cancer. It is not only an old persons disease and one of the reasons that my doctor didn’t do any investigations after a cancer marker showed levels that indicated cancer 7 years before my diagnosis was that I was then in my early 40’s. Even the fact that my mother had breast cancer when she was about 54 didn’t get any interest. In the UK when you turn 50 you come into the screening system of having a mammogram every three years. They sent me a letter a couple of years ago and I had to call them and say that it was too late. I already had Metastatic Breast Cancer.
The incidence of Metastatic Breast cancer in those aged 25 – 39 has nearly doubled in the last 30 years. The numbers may still be low, but by 2009 in the US 800 women a year in this age range was diagnosed with MBC http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/health/advanced-breast-cancer-may-be-rising-among-young-women-study-finds.html?_r=0. That is 800 families living with the potential, or actual loss of their mother/wife/daughter/sister. I want the quilt to show that we all need to be aware. A 16 year old daughter may have noticed that her mum has a lump or rash and encourage her to get it checked; or the same 16 year old may remember something that they were told, saw or read that in 10 years time may help them know when to go to their doctor.
A quilt can be a visually striking thing which can also tell a story. Over 40 years ago my mother and I made one from scraps left over from the clothes that she had made for my brother and I. In 1972 I had two operations in three months, and in the period in between my father was in hospital and nearly died, so for my mother it was something to do and she whiled away the anxious hours. I remember those clothes and making that quilt to this day. Maybe the image of the quilt I am making will stay with others and remind them of something important in the years to come.