McCalls 7817, ©1981

My brother died at age 59 from colon cancer. He has been gone for several years now, but there’s not a day goes by without me thinking of him. He was such a voice of wisdom. He just knew things, and knew when to listen and when to speak. To say that i miss him is a gross understatement.

He loved gardening. He studied landscaping, and he was good at it. His backyard in Seattle was a thing to behold, with blooms in every season and in every corner, arranged so beautifully it could’ve been in a magazine. His favorite flower was irises, especially purple.

After he died, I started noticing irises on days that I missed him particularly badly, or when I really, really wished I could talk to him about something. This was no fluke. It wasn’t that I just hadn’t noticed them before. They appeared. For example, the week of Thanksgiving, in the third week of November the year he died, I was having a really sad day. It had been a really hard day, and I was wishing that I could talk with him about it. Later, I opened Facebook, and one of my friends said “look what I saw at church today”, and lo and behold, there were purple irises blooming at my old church in Indiana in the third week of NOVEMBER. That just doesn’t happen here. They are a spring flower, and are gone by June. I smiled. Jeff was saying hello.

This continued to happen over the years, then one day I got a call. I had been having back problems that had gotten really severe, and they had finally done an MRI. The doctor called and said there was something there. They didn’t know what, because the MRI had only caught the bottom, but I needed to have another MRI done higher up, and immediately because it could be a bleed, or a tumor, or God knows what. I was driving home from work thinking about the impending MRI and wishing I could talk with my brother, because he would’ve calmed me down. I missed him so much at that moment.

I went to have the MRI done. They put me into a dressing room where I changed into the uber-stylish gown. They started walking me down the hall to the MRI room, when suddenly I realized that there was a painting of purple irises ahead of me. I looked around, and they were on each side of the hallway beside me too. It was like my brother was hugging me. I felt his presence so strongly, and I knew that no matter what, I was going to be ok. It still makes me cry to think about it.

I went on to be diagnosed with lymphoma, with a large tumor that was pressing on my spinal cord, as well as chest and abdominal tumors and one under one of my arms. I had surgery. I had radiation. I had two and a half years of immunotherapy to put my Stage III cancer into remission, but I never once wavered in knowing that everything would be fine. And it is. Though B-cell follicular lymphoma is never cured (it lurks), I rolled through all of my treatment with only a bit of fatigue, and now have zero evidence of disease. Thanks, Jeff. I couldn’t have done it without you.

So when I came across this pattern of a quilt of irises, I did what I do whenever I see his favorite flower and say “hi Jeff.” If it wasn’t uncut, I would probably try to make it, and Jeff would watch me from above and laugh at how hilariously bad my quilting skills are. But I’d also sleep under it every night so he could give me those hugs I miss so much.


Fabulous Friday: Good Stuff

Today’s Fabulous Friday isn’t a sewing pattern post. It’s about me, me, me. After all, if I wasn’t here, you wouldn’t be either, right? So here I am, giving my update.

First, I haven’t been around as much because I’m still inundated with grandgirls (until next month) and the 10,000 patterns that arrived. That being said, I’m being quite productive. I’m sorting through the new patterns and transferring them to the Etsy shop for one. For two, I built a pretty new Vintage Fashion Library web store. I’ve also opened an eBay store again, for non-sewing related stuff. It’s been a goal of mine to diversity and not rely purely on Etsy for a multitude of reasons.

First off, the fees. When you sell patterns, you have to list a LOT of patterns in order to sell them. Each one costs money to list, to renew if it doesn’t sell, and then in fees once it does sell (not to mention off-site ads, etc.). It’s expensive. You can also get lost in Etsy’s less-than-optimal search and then people have trouble finding you. But my aha moment came a few weeks back, when someone on a forum I’m on said that when someone buys from you on Etsy, they said “I got it on Etsy,” not “I got it from the Vintage Fashion Library.” That’s a problem. People need to remember you in order to keep coming back. It’s also too easy to back out of a shop and fill your cart from other stores, instead of buying from you. It’s just the way Etsy is built.

I had my own selling platform some years back, but switched to Etsy when my life got really complicated. I decided to get back to my own shop, so now I will have two pattern stores, plus my eBay store (Mhysa Lode. Game of Thrones nerds will get the play on words). I’ve tried selling on Facebook Market, but it just doesn’t work well for me, and until they can iron out the wrinkles there, I probably won’t use it.

I joined an accountability group, and the coordinator saw my list of goals for the year and was like “WTH are you thinking?” I have big goals. This week, I had no grandgirls, so I kind of crushed it a bit. The next three weeks will be nuts, then hopefully I will get back into crush mode again, and you will all reap the benefits. I treat my sewing pattern business like a BUSINESS, and it’s my primary income now, so not working it is not an option. Plus, I’m a workaholic, so there’s that. I really do have problems turning it off, but that’s not always a bad thing.

So Fabulous Friday means a pretty new website, a new eBay store, and oh, I have my last cancer treatment today! This means that after 2 1/2 years of radiation and immunotherapy, we can actually call it remission. This is great news. Lymphoma isn’t curable. It lingers in the lymphatic system, but can’t be seen until it really flares up, so it will more than likely be back at some point, but the goal is to live with it, not die from it, as most people do.

So this weekend, if you have a cocktail, raise one for the end of my treatment. It’s been a long road, but thankfully pretty easy, and hopefully we won’t go down that road again soon.

Have a great weekend.

PS If you check out the new VFL website, let me know what you think. I’m still tweaking it and am very open to suggestions.

family stories, Non-Hogkin's Lymphoma, self help, self love, sewing patterns, vintage fashion

All the Love

Butterick 3120 , 1944.

There’s a commercial on TV right now that I believe is for a cancer facility. It says that a person never forgets the moment they were told that they had cancer. Let me tell you about that moment for me.

I had had surgery for a large mass in my back that had been causing an incredible amount of pain. Doctors varied on what they thought it was – infectious disease thought an infection, orthopedics thought perhaps it was a hemorrhage (I’d been the chiropractor in search of pain relief), and oncology thought it was a tumor. So I spent the night in the hospital the night before to manage the pain, and they rolled me off to surgery not knowing what was in store.

It was cancer. I woke up from anesthesia surround by my boys and my husband (I can’t remember why my daughter wasn’t there but I think the baby was sick). My husband took my hand and looked very serious, which in itself is a big deal, because he’s a sarcastic nutjob like me. Everyone stared at me very intently as he told me what they’d found. A huge tumor, wrapped around the spinal cord, that they couldn’t remove without a tremendously complicated surgery. They didn’t know what kind of tumor, but they biopsies and closed me up. If they had to, they’d go back in, but we needed more information.

I will tell you that I have never felt more love in my entire life. The looks of concern in those three men’s eyes was something I will never forget. And you know what? I didn’t get upset. I didn’t get worried. I knew we had this, because with love like that, how can anything go wrong?

They didn’t know till later that day exactly what kind of cancer. It turned out to be lymphoma, and there were other tumors. We came up with a plan, starting with radiation to, as my orthopedist said, “melt” the spinal tumor. Three radiation sessions and it was completely gone. Immunotherapy, to kill the rest. A year later, there is no sign of the other tumors, though I have another year and a half of maintenance treatment to keep it gone. I have gone from Stage IIIB to “no evidence of disease.” Yes, it may come back, because with my type of cancer there is no cure, just remissions of varying length. But till then, I live my life and have a lot of fun.

So yes, you really do remember the moment you were told you have cancer. But that’s just the beginning, not an end. And in the middle, have a lot of fun.

Hospital gown pattern from World War II era, likely made for new moms who were in the hospital. Why can’t bed jackets make a comeback? They’re so pretty.

Have a great weekend.