Dad’s Chemo Quilt

So, when I decided to hand-sew my first quilt, I had no thought to giving it away, but not from selfishness.  I didn’t want to foist such a project on anyone, preferring to keep the spoils of that initial foray to myself.  I chose fabrics that pleased me, knowing nothing about a quarter-inch seam, rotary cutters, quilt rulers, or how necessary pressing would be.  I had fabrics, some new needles, quilting thread, and a heart bursting with ambition.

Initial blocks

Sort of how I started writing novels, and see where that got me!

My squares were more like rectangles, my seam was about three eighths’ inch, but I was enjoying myself, when my shoulder wasn’t complaining.  By about the time I had collected fourteen four-piece blocks, I knew I was hooked, and had started gleaning the web for information, and of course, there was a truck-load from which to peruse.  I had started looking into irons and ironing boards, which to my family meant two things, either I was truly in the throes of quilting madness, or Armageddon was upon us.  But it’s Good Friday, and all seems well.  It was just another step on my quilting journey.

An iron and a board, good grief!

By this time, I had an idea of which batting I wanted, I knew the backing, an old fleece blanket we’d had back in the UK.  I was toying with the idea of using my daughter’s machine to attach the back, but the rest was a hand-sewn effort that was stop and start, depending on the state of my aching right shoulder.  That was the issue that pushed me over the edge to get my own machine, but it was something far more poignant that took this quilt from my possession, placing it into the hands of another.

My dad

My father is undergoing chemotherapy for prostate cancer, and the Taxotere is giving him severe chills.

A little background about my dad and cancer; he was diagnosed in 2009, and until last year, was doing okay with Zytiga and quarterly Lupron shots.  But in 2013, his PSA started to rise, and a different treatment was necessary.  Chemo was chosen over other options, and Dad started getting Taxotere in mid-January of 2014.  By then his PSA was at 89, compared to a more manageable 30-something a year before.

Since then, I’ve been on the road a good deal, attending chemo sessions and doctor appointments.  Side effects hadn’t been too debilitating for my dad, although immediately he lost his love for ice cream.  By the third round, he just couldn’t get warm.  We were chatting on the phone about this, when the light went off; I was making a quilt!  If anyone could use it, and overlook the many flaws, it would be my dad.

For a time, I called this my stained glass quilt.  I added the blue sashes, because my blocks weren't even enough to meet up squarely.

For a time, I called this my stained glass quilt. I added the blue sashes, because my blocks weren’t even enough to meet up squarely.

By this point, I had all the blocks done, even a few rows sewn together.  I documented about every possible stage of making this quilt, in part that I love to capture new ventures digitally, and that I had to share the joy with my daughters.  But now I was in a race to complete the quilt before his next dose of Taxotere, so he’d have a toasty blanket to combat those chills.  My husband and I made a date with our daughter and son-in-law to spend a Saturday with them, so I could machine-stitch the back onto the basted quilt.

The completed top, hoisted aloft by my son.

The completed top, hoisted aloft by my son.

I look back at the many photos taken over that stretch of six weeks, from the first of February to 15 March, and I wonder how much I have changed.  I went from being a fairly full-time writer to a dedicated quilter.  Then I consider all my dad was undergoing, but by mid-March, we had some good news; Dad’s PSA had dropped in half after just two rounds of chemo, from that high of 89 to 48.  And while none of us could do anything about how ice cream had lost its flavour, once I’d delivered the quilt, at least Dad wouldn’t be cold.  I kept thinking about my father as I basted (and was poked by pins), then tied the quilt on Friday, March 14th, snapping more pics than were good for me, sending many to my daughter, who shared them with friends at her work.  One gal, from Oklahoma, sent her support, which I needed, for this was all new to me, but the purpose was altered.

Adding the ties

This wasn’t just to drape over the back of my sofa anymore.

My first adult experience with a sewing machine began at my daughter’s house, and it was an all-afternoon effort.  A few bobbin issues arose, and the walking foot wasn’t cooperating.  Instead I used the usual presser foot, and a decorative loopy stitch that I tried to keep on the blanket, but sometimes it veered onto the quilt top.  My daughter was cooking dinner, while my husband and son-in-law were handy when I needed assistance.  Even Buttercup was a love, finding herself a nice cozy spot on the sofa, snoring her doggy vibes my way.  I stopped for dinner, then went right back to sewing.  And finally, just as my daughter was asking about dessert at a nearby ice cream shop, I was done.  Backspaced those final loops, cut the threads, then shook out my shoulders.  Similar to finishing a novel was how I felt, but even more moved, for I had completed my first quilt, for my dad.  And with the last pin stuck into the cushion, I wouldn’t be stabbed until the next quilt.

Without any poky pins, I could happily drape that quilt over my shoulders, Buttercup having given her approval.

Without any poky pins, I could happily drape that quilt over my shoulders, Buttercup having given her approval.

I brushed aside a few tears, then shed more as my husband and I followed our kids to ice cream.  Writing novels is a thrill, but this quilt, for my father, was the culmination of far more than words could express.  Of course there was much still to do; trim the ties, wash the quilt, but it was DONE, and so was I.  I slept well that night, pondering the weight of this new pastime, and where it was fitting into my life, and into those I love.  On Friday the 21st of March, I drove to my hometown, where Dad is getting chemotherapy.  I brought the quilt, and a book for my mom, a paperback collection of short stories from Top Writers Block, for which I had been a contributor.  Mom was pleased with her book, and Dad was thrilled for the quilt, which he modeled there at the infusion center.  A week later, my husband and I went north for a visit, and Dad was feeling pretty lousy, using that quilt for its intended purpose.  But by then, he was also warmed with the knowledge that Taxotere was still doing its job; his PSA had fallen from 48 to 24.

He thought it was the perfect weight and length, and we all hoped Fluffy the cat would approve the next time she jumped on his lap.

He thought it was the perfect weight and length, and we all hoped Fluffy the cat would approve the next time she jumped on his lap.

And it continues to drop; just two days ago Mom emailed with the news that now the PSA was at 9.4!  Dad has undergone five treatments, and while at times he feels pretty poorly, his attitude is fantastic, as is his willingness to take the bad with the good.  I’ll see him, and the rest of my loved ones, in two days on Easter Sunday.  I had hoped to bring up the Fat Quarters Quilt, but that has taken a backseat to other projects, and I’ll finish it next week.  There is a time and place for all things, be they quilting or chemotherapy or blogging.  The Fat Quarters Quilt is an offshoot of remnants from Dad’s quilt, and will live on the back of my couch.  But it’s so much better that Dad has my first effort, squiffy stitches and no quarter-inch seams aside.

The last time it rested on my couch, waiting to get to its true home.

The last time it rested on my couch, waiting to get to its true home.

Some things are meant to carry flaws, but love pardons those sins.  Wishing you all a peaceful Good Friday and a beautiful Easter!

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2 thoughts on “Dad’s Chemo Quilt

  1. laura bruno lilly

    “…just two days ago Mom emailed with the news that now the PSA was at 9.4! Dad has undergone five treatments, and while at times he feels pretty poorly, his attitude is fantastic, as is his willingness to take the bad with the good.”

    Very significant drop, to be sure; much to celebrate over Easter in your family…and that fantastic attitude is reflected nicely in the photo of him wrapped up in your quiltgift…

    inspiteofprostatecancerpeace

    Reply

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