It can be hard to find something positive and beautiful when faced with the diagnosis of cancer, but many cancer patients find comfort and hope in the love and support shared by family, friends and their community. And every once in a while, there is a simple gesture that says “we are thinking of you… praying for you…here for you” which comes from a complete stranger, and the beauty of that gesture can brighten even the darkest moments of cancer.
For the past 13 years members of the Ritzy Thimble Quilters’ Guild have been bringing that life-brightening beauty to cancer patients who come to the Hospitality Houses of Methodist Medical Center. The Houses provide a home-like atmosphere for cancer patients and their families who must travel to Oak Ridge to receive extended treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy.
Each year, members of Ritzy Thimble provide quilts for the Hospitality Houses, which are given to every cancer patient who stays there. While each quilt is different, they are all made in the same pattern of generosity and compassion.
Guests choose their quilt at the beginning of their stay and often use these cozy pieces of art throughout their treatments. Patients receiving chemotherapy are often cold, and it is not uncommon for patients to take their quilts with them during treatment. While the fabric keeps bodies warm, the detail and love that goes into each Ritzy Thimble quilt keep spirits high.
On August 15 the Ritzy Thimble Quilters’ Guild held a sew-and-tell session at Methodist Medical Center where this year’s donation of 29 quilts was displayed and admired by fellow quilters.
The inspiration for this year’s quilt donation was “Rainbow of Colors,” which references the many colors that represent each type of cancer… pink for breast cancer, purple for pancreatic cancer, dark blue for colon cancer… and the list goes on.
“It’s very special to our hearts,” said Cindy Conrad, coordinator of Ritzy Thimble’s Hospitality House donation project for 2016. “Many of us have had cancer or have family members with cancer.”
Quilters chose the color of cancer they wished to represent in their quilt, and as each woman displayed her quilt and shared the significance of the color to her, you could feel the emotion that went into each stich. Some quilts were in memory of a loved one lost to cancer, many were celebrations of survivorship.
“I was given a five year survival rate” said one quilter of her own cancer diagnosis as she displayed her quilt. “It’s been five years this month…and I plan to be back again next month.”
Narda Hipsher, 2016 president of the Ritzy Thimble Quilters’ Guild, has made a quilt for the Hospitality Houses for the last five years. Then her husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away this year, so the quilt she presented was predominantly white to represent lung cancer. She said there are tears on that quilt, but there are also prayers. “I hope the person who receives it will feel that,” she added.
Kim Maes, manager of Cancer Support Services at Methodist Medical Center and coordinator of the Hospitality Houses, was present to accept this year’s quilt donation and to share a few words about the Houses and the people who receive these quilts.
“I can’t tell you what this means to us at Methodist to be able to give this gift to our cancer patients. To be able to give them a quilt when they arrive brings tears to their eyes,” said Maes. “We tell them, ‘Someone who doesn’t even know you loves you and is praying for you and cared enough to make you this quilt.’”
Maes shared the story of a cancer patient from Speedwell who was unable to drive herself, who had no family and who needed surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The woman thought she wouldn’t even have the chance to fight cancer because she couldn’t get to those necessary treatments, but her oncologist showed her the Hospitality Houses where she had a private suite, access to a complete kitchen and fully-stocked pantry, and convenient access to all of the medical services she needed. She found a home-away-from-home and she found hope for her future.
“What you all do is the icing on the cake,” Maes told the quilters of the impact their donations have on the patients who come to the Hospitality Houses.
The Ritzy Thimble Quilters provide the “icing on the cake” for many organizations in our community, from making pillowcases that brighten the rooms of hospitalized children, to teaching young people the art and joy of sewing, their work is both beautiful and impactful. Methodist Medical Center and the Hospitality Houses are grateful to be included among the organizations who benefit from the talent and passion shared by the members of Ritzy Thimble.
Each year, the quilts that are given to the Hospitality Houses are made with different patterns, different themes, different colors, but one thing is consistent: Every quilt has a story, and no matter how that story ends, it always has moments of beauty, hope and love.
Learn more about Ritzy Thimble on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RitzyThimbleQuiltGuild. For more information about opportunities to support Methodist’s Hospitality Houses, please call 865-835-4358 or click here.