Aid and comfort

Published 9:31 pm Saturday, February 19, 2011

Quilters’ Guild: Members of the Suffolk Quilters’ Guild have been working to make pillows for breast cancer victims. Participating in a recent pillow-making workshop were Guild members, from left, Nancy Glover, Kathy Poston, Pam Wilson, Deborah Thompson, Dianne Alexander, Carol Vieira and Betty Bowler.

Group hopes to help breast cancer victims

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories leading up to the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life, to be held May 13-14.

The pillows were piled in a craze of color and design. Small, skinny ones shaped a little like dog bones were scattered amongst long, round ones shaped like stuffed tubes and short, fat, rectangular ones with flowers or butterflies or random geometric patterns on them.

There was a preponderance of pink, and one of the pillows featured the word “Hope” sewn in script front and center to give the future recipient a reminder of one of the most important facets of cancer treatment.

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Hope and comfort are the hallmarks of this outreach program by the Suffolk Quilters’ Guild, whose 73 members are working to make more than 100 pillows of various shapes, colors and sizes to be donated to Sentara Obici Hospital and then given to breast cancer patients.

“We want to help other people and provide them comfort,” member Betty Bowler said on Saturday as she and a half-dozen other members cut fabric, sewed seams and stuffed the empty sacks they’d created during a special workshop held to move the project along.

“It’s a fast project, and it’s simple,” member Dianne Alexander said. “It’s an easy project, but it’s probably as comforting a project as we’ve done.”

The Guild, which is sponsored by the Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation, performs two community-oriented projects each year. Prior to Christmas, members make Christmas ornaments for Santa to distribute at a Parks and Recreation breakfast. And in the spring, they find a different project to take on each year.

This year, Alexander said, she spoke to someone at Obici Hospital, volunteering her group’s services for the pillow project, and she found that her idea was warmly and gratefully received.

Alexander and Bowler — and probably many of the other members of the Quilters’ Guild — have close personal connections to this particular project. Alexander’s daughter is a nine-year breast cancer survivor, and Bowler’s daughter-in-law is in treatment for it right now.

“I saw her go through it, and I’d like to help other people that are going through it,” Alexander said of her daughter. Bowler agreed, adding that her daughter-in-law’s descriptions of her own treatment have helped her have a better understanding of how the pillows can help.

The different shapes all have special purposes, they said, and can provide comfort and relief for a wide variety of breast cancer victims. Once the pillows have been donated, hospital staff will help find just the right one for each patient.

Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among women of all races.

In 2007, the most recent year for which figures are available, 202,964 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer; 40,598 women in the U.S. died from the disease.

The Quilters’ Guild has found a way to provide aid and comfort to those in the middle of the fight against cancer. In May, people from all over Suffolk — cancer survivors, cancer caregivers and those who’ve lost family and friends to the disease — will all come together at Bennett’s Creek Park to do their own part in the battle.

Suffolk’s Rockin’ Relay for Life gives participants an opportunity to celebrate each other’s successes and grieve for the losses. And the funds that are raised through the event go to the American Cancer Society, which uses the money for important research into cancer cures.

To learn more about how you can help in the fight against cancer, contact Anne Barclay at 493-7956 or via email at