November 17th, 2015 was a significant day for me;
- it was my birthday;
- it was the day I accepted redundancy from my job;
- and, it was also the day that would change my family’s lives dramatically; because it was the day my father’s endoscopy revealed a complete blockage of his duodenum (valve at the bottom of your stomach). We didn’t know for sure at the time that it was cancer, but this was later confirmed when he had the blockage (large cancerous tumour) removed 3 weeks later.
As a family, we were devastated. Dad’s cancer had managed to hide from the specialists on multiple scans because it was growing internally into the organs. None of Dad’s blood tests over the months of tests prior had indicated he had cancer. Yet, as it turned out during the surgery, he had a very large tumour in his stomach, it had spread extensively through his lymphatic system, and spots had started to grow on his liver.
My father had his life-saving surgery a few days before his 69th birthday. Which meant he was in the hospital for his birthday, fighting to recover from what was a very gruelling surgery. I realised that my father was one of the few people in my family that I’d never made a quilt for, so the day before his birthday, I set out to make one for him. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I used some bee blocks, and a gifted butterfly block from my friend Juliet, that I already had on hand to speed up the process. I knew it wasn’t the most masculine of quilts, but as blue & butterflies are my signature colours and icons, I hoped it would make my Dad smile and think of me.
In the rush of the creation, I only snapped one picture of the top, pre-quilt-backing:
I chose to use the typewriters and the newspaper/text fabric specifically because my Dad is an avid reader. He was also a computer studies teacher prior to his retirement and loves computers/technology.
I backed the quilt really simply, with blue polar fleece. There is no quilt sandwich, only a front and back sewn together. To quilt it I only sewed around the outside. Partly because time was limited, but also partly because I didn’t want to deal with puckers in the fleece, which I knew from experience would be likely if I was rushing. The result is a really cosy and flexible quilt.
This quilt has been in the hospital with my Dad on multiple occasions, and in winter drapes over his chair to keep him warm.
Most of 2016 was a struggle for my Dad. After recovering from the surgery extremely well, at the tail end of March 2016, he started to become symptomatic again. His cancer is an extremely rapidly growing type, and within weeks it can shut down his digestive system. In mid-2016, things were looking very dire. But, in September his specialists managed to get him stable enough to start chemo, and that became the game-changer we were looking for.
My Dad had 13 rounds of chemo, and through each one he was an absolute picture of courage and strength. The odds he was given at the beginning were not the least bit reassuring. But, he kept the faith, after each round, he became stronger. It was working!
In December 2016, a year after his official diagnosis, my Dad was able to stop chemo, because he was well again and his cancer had shrunk so much they could no longer see any of the scans again. His oncologist called him her miracle patient.
All last year Dad had wanted to make it to his 70th birthday in December, and he did. On Dec 17th, we all got together to celebrate his milestone of turning 70. We celebrated with a party on the Saturday, and on the Sunday we had a professional family photo shoot and family dinner at my house.
Cut to the present day – April 2017; my Dad is still well. We’ve had several bumps along the way. Serious bumps in the form of recurring serious blood infections and complicated procedures. Each with their own hospital stays and challenges to overcome.
But, my Dad is still here.
He’s not symptomatic.
He’s eating well and enjoying food. And best of all;
He’s participating in life.
We couldn’t be happier as a family that he’s defied the odds and is still with us.
Thanks for listening