Delivering a stitch of love
For cancer patients, receiving infusions of chemotherapy can mean long, dark hours of waiting in a drafty room.
A group of Prineville women make a trek every November to the St. Charles Cancer Center to bring some sunshine to these patients, wrapping them in beautiful handmade quilts. They call this their Chemo Quilt Project, and this year, they delivered 200 quilts.
The Crook County Quilt Guild has been together for approximately 20 years. Marilyn Malloy joined the group shortly after it started in 1999.
"My daughter had cancer. She was diagnosed in 1999 in Southern California, and she was given less than six months," Malloy said. "One of her friends gave her a quilt."
That's how the idea for the project was born.
Thankfully, Malloy's daughter recovered.
At that point in time, she didn't sew.
"I decided I should learn how to make quilts," Malloy said. "I joined the guild, and after a couple of years, I approached them to see if they would like to" start making chemo quilts.
She helped start the Chemo Quilt Project for cancer patients undergoing chemo at St. Charles Bend, Memorial Hospital Outpatient Infusion Center in Bend, and St. Charles Redmond Infusion Center.
The first year that they worked on the project, the group delivered about 50 quilts. Initially, Malloy provided the materials for the quilts.
"It got a little out of hand," she said of the cost.
Malloy indicated that one of the patients who received a quilt had been a quilter, and when she died, her family contacted Malloy and donated her fabric. Many more donations have come their way since. The patients must have 100% cotton for the quilts.
"We're doing ok with fabric right now," she said.
This year, the group converged in town and loaded the 200 quilts to take to St. Charles Cancer Center.
"I think it is very meaningful to them," said Lisa Goodman, public information officer for St. Charles Health System. "It gives them comfort during a difficult time for sure."
She added that the Crook County Quilt Guild has been bringing quilts to the St. Charles Bend Cancer Center for years.
"Every year, they make a big delivery, which is awesome," Goodman said.
Wendy Rudy, who works in survivorship and community education for St. Charles Cancer Center, said that when the group arrives with their annual delivery, she invites the center's leadership and caregivers to share a small breakfast with the guild members.
"They come in and present and they tell us how many they did," she said.
The guild members also reflect on stories behind their quilts and "kind of just share their stories."
Rudy pointed out that the member who made the most quilts was 94 years old.
"It's her passion and she loves it," Rudy said.
Dorothy Nissom has been making chemo quilts for approximately four years.
"I did 38 this year so far," said Nissom proudly.
When asked about her most rewarding memories associated with making the quilts, Nissom said, "I received a card back from a lady that got one of my quilts from the hospital, and she wrote a note saying she got it. To me, it's knowing someone is enjoying the end product."
"I've had a long life and done a lot of things," she added. "And it's fun."
Rudy gets emotional when making reference to some of the stories of patients who have received the quilts. She pointed out a quilt of a sunflower she gave to a patient because Rudy always called her "our ray of sunshine."
"She originally tried to refuse it, saying it should go to someone who needs it more," Rudy said. "I told her the quilters want her to have it, and that I hand selected it from the hundreds, because it reminds me of her. She said the quilt was 'one of the most precious gifts she was ever given, such a blessing. Thank You!'"
She added that the quilts have a huge impact, and that many of the patients have never had a homemade quilt.
Another patient was very touched. Rudy said she exclaimed, "This is probably the kindest, most precious gift I have received in my life.' Her eyes welled up in tears, and we gave each other hugs."
Yet another patient said, "Oh, this completely made my day. It's like Christmas but it's only November."
She said that for many patients, the quilt a prize possession that they hold onto and value because of the work and time that goes into it.
"It's like a stitch of love," she said.
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