Long ago and not so far away, a beloved co-worker was diagnosed with breast cancer. My grandmother's youngest sister had died of breast cancer before I was born. I found my first lump when I was 23. For ten years, I ran in the Race for the Cure in memory of and in honor of those who have fought the battle.
Breast cancer has always been something that frightens me, but it also has been something I've watched rally people together in strength and purpose. I'm not sure any fight is as strong as the global fight against breast cancer.
When my co-worker was diagnosed, I wanted to do something more than just run in the Race for the Cure. I wanted to do something more than just wear pink. I wanted to do something more than just make brownies for our fundraising bake sale at work.
The first year, I collected all the T-shirts I'd saved from all my years of Racing for the Cure. I made a T-shirt quilt and raffled it at work to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. Sadly, I did not take a picture of that quilt or the winner, who planned to give it to her sister, who had survived her own battle with breast cancer.
The next year, I didn't have enough T-shirts to make another quilt. So my co-worker, who had successfully completed her chemo, brought me hers and a few she'd collected from other survivors. She wanted me to keep up the quilting tradition. Her collection contained something I'd not had for the first quilt. She now had pink shirts. Survivor shirts. She sacrificed her own special shirts for this quilt, as did two other survivors I have never met.
I made another quilt, I included small squares of shimmery pink fabric my brother had sent to me while he was stationed in Korea, and we raffled the new quilt off again to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. Once again, the new winner planned to give my second T-shirt quilt to her sister who was currently undergoing chemo for breast cancer.
The next year, I'd begun trying to print my photos on fabric. My first attempt was quite comical. I printed five photos on fabric I'd cut up and adhered to wax paper. After the rectangles dried, I ironed them, using a brief mist of water.
The ink ruined my ironing board cover and did a real job on my iron. The quilt blocks were rendered useless and not even recognizable. All the ink had run and smeared.
I did some research, bought some special chemicals to pre- and post-treat the fabric and tried again.
"Think Pink" was the result. The photos were mostly common scenes around Denver each October, giant pink ribbons adorning some of the most popular hangouts throughout downtown. We raffled the quilt, and once again, it was won by a third co-worker whose sister had survived breast cancer, and once again, I neglected to get a photo.
My co-worker who survived breast cancer once again did not win the quilt. She put in every year, and she never won the quilt. But she did win the battle.
She convinced me to do one more quilt, and I thought it was the last one I did for breast cancer, because the following year, I endured emergency back surgery and couldn't sit to sew for the longest time.
This time, I DID shoot a photo. (It's at the top of this post.) This quilt symbolizes all the quilts I made to help fight breast cancer. It features some of my favorite pink photos from that time period, including a pink Hawaiian flower. This quilt was won by yet another co-worker who had survived breast cancer.
While searching for the photos of these quilts, I came upon one more I'd completely forgotten. I did one more after the photo quilt. I don't even remember doing it. I must have been on pain killer!
The bright rainbow fat quarters used in this quilt were the first I'd ever bought online. The colors were so fabulous, I wanted to do something special with them. I made one last Race for the Cure quilt, which was raffled at my work. The winner was yet another co-worker going through chemo for breast cancer.
None of these raffles were rigged. I had nothing to do with the drawings. All I did was make each quilt and turn in the money collected each year. My co-workers volunteered to help with logistics, such as display during each raffle and raffle management. None of the employees where I work ever complained that each quilt was won by someone closely connected to breast cancer. I always wondered if some of those who bought tickets put in the name(s) of whomever they wanted to win the quilt each year instead of their own names, but I'll never know. What I do know is I work for an incredible company, and employees treat each other like family.
Now that I'm sewing and quilting again, I think I need to do another pink quilt. I think I need to do two, so I can give one to my co-worker who survived breast cancer, just in case she doesn't win.
Because, after all, she DID win the real prize. She beat breast cancer.