Monday, September 22, 2014

Melly's Breast Pocket Project

Last year, Melanie Testa shared her thoughts, frustrations, and feelings about her experiences post-breast cancer.  For those of you unfamiliar with Melly's story, Melly chose not to have breast reconstruction following her double mastectomy.  Melly's experience isn't unique -- a significant minority of women choose not to have post-operative breast reconstruction -- but nonetheless, the "world" seems unprepared for women for whom this path is best.

Amidst all the other stuff she had to deal with, Melly found it difficult to find shirts that didn't have darts, shirts made for "flatties" (her term).  In response -- and in frustration I imagine, Melly put out a call for artists to make breast pockets in honor of breast cancer survivors, regardless of their post-op choices, and to help raise awareness about the choices women have about reconstruction.

Melly's frankness wasn't the way things were dealt with in my family.  Oh no.  If a conversation had to deal with "feminine issues", it became taboo and hush-hush.  It was so private that I didn't find out my mom was going in for a lumpectomy until a hospital nurse confirmed all the pre-op procedures and administrative details with me on the phone, assuming I was my mom.

Oops.  That was not an ideal way for me to find out.

I've clearly survived the shock and have come out of it believing that talking about medical issues is important.  Everyone doesn't need to be as open as Melly, who has shared her experiences broadly and bravely across social media.  But it IS important for members of a family to talk about whatever is going on: cancer, mental illness, whatever.  So many things are influenced by genetics and/or environment that it seems fool-hardy not to talk with those who are most likely going to be impacted by health issues.

But getting back on track here, it's no surprise I responded to Melly's call for pockets last year.  I wanted to make something for my mom who went through three lumpectomies and countless aspirations.  One pocket  I made dealt with my mom's beloved cup of coffee; after her surgery, she was advised to avoid caffeine under the notion that caffeine could speed metastasis.  This was almost as hard to deal with as the surgery.  My mom never had an empty coffee cup and our house forever smelled of coffee.  The other pocket was made with fabrics my mom had said, at one point or another, that she loved.  It seemed appropriate to give my mom some method of expression on a topic she otherwise felt she wasn't "supposed to" talk about.

You can see my two pockets flanking the bottom corners of the title of Melly's article in the October/November 2014 issue of Quilting Arts magazine.  (Imagine my surprise to discover them there -- thank you Melly and QA.)

(Apologies for the photo; my scanner is broken)
Melly's article tells her story, shares a pocket pattern, and puts out another call to further raise awareness.  I will be sending in more pockets -- perhaps I can make one in honor of my mom as a survivor and another for Lisa Quintana who fought valiantly for years before succumbing to the disease.  I hope you'll all read Melly's interview and decide if you can do something to support her cause.   You can find details in the issue on news stands now.

1 comment:

Norma Schlager said...

This is so inspiring, Vivien, and I love the ones you did to honor your mother. I lost a dear friend a couple of years ago to this terrible disease and I should do one for her.