Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Story Behind The Outfits

This is a long post. :) Grab a cup of coffee or tea and come for a little visit and read about our families. This is our story, which inspired our garments we made for the Pink & Red Sew Expo challenge, sponsored by Coats & Clark, which is in support of Breast Cancer and Heart disease, as it effects women.

And now....the story........................

With thread, we are stitched together through time to reveal history and give hope to the future.

We bring you our story and collection of garments from two different countries, two different provinces and two different states. We hope you are inspired and encouraged and remember our lives are precious.

Have you ever stopped to look at the thread you are using to stitch your new quilt, sew that lovely new garment or pulled together the latest craft? Have you ever wondered how far it’s traveled to get to you or how strong it is? In years past, women would carefully save their thread and use it sparingly, knowing they should not waste it. Sometimes they would carefully re-use some threads, when thread was hard to get; just like re-using or as the term now says, re-fashion or re-purpose old garments. We live in a society of plenty. We have our cupboards and bins full of fabric and thread, eager to be used for project after project. We rip out our mistakes, only to take hold of more thread to once again, stitch up a seam that wasn’t quite right the first time. We walk around our houses, carrying thread on our clothes, going from one room to another. We can even find those threads where we dare not say they have gone. Thread is everywhere! We are fortunate to have all this wonderful thread to help us stitch up the joys in our lives.

Statistics tell us that we are more likely to get heart disease then breast cancer. That may very well be true, and I do not want to minimize that fact. However, in my family, we have been struck with breast cancer, more than heart disease. The very day I started writing our story, to go with the pictures of our outfits for the Pink & Red contest, I was given the news that a woman I see each week, and occasionally assist in a volunteer position, has breast cancer and is going in for surgery, today, Jan. 25th. The timing and situation begged to be told. This lady is one I respect and have been getting to know, little by little. She is a private person. She is very well respected and I can see she is also very loved by the people around her. Her name is Pam. Pam is a special lady.

When Pam shared her news with me, I was saddened. What was strangely different, from her situation from when my sister received her news, is that there was much more peace and hope with Pam’s situation. Why? Because in the 10 + years since my sister’s diagnosis, there have been lots of medical advancements in the study of breast cancer. Pam was feeling at peace, in part, due to the early diagnosis that took place. My sister, Cathy, when she received the news of her cancer, it was very much like a death sentence given to her, rather than simply a diagnosis. I can vividly remember my father’s shaking voice on the other end of the phone, when he told me my sister’s biopsy came back with the cancer. You see, we had hoped it skipped our generation. Unfortunately, the curse continues. As a mother, I can’t help but wonder what is in store for my own daughters.

Part of the irony in Pam’s story, in relation to Cathy’s story is that Pam, similarly to my sister’s age at her diagnosis, is 44 years old. Like Cathy, Pam has only one child, a daughter and like Cathy, Pam’s daughter is 10 years old. When Cathy was diagnosed with cancer, I had just had my 5th baby and I live a long ways away. I was unable to be there for Cathy, when she went through her long ordeal of treatments. I was there in prayer and spirit, but not in meeting the everyday needs. I am hoping that I can have a spot in the long line up, to help Pam in her time of need. When I inquired about serving her, I found out the line up is very long. I am very grateful to hear that.

I was able to share with Pam, my sister’s story and to hopefully give her some encouragement and further peace as she prepared for what lies ahead. I am sure once she returns to volunteering again; we will have more time to chat about life and the struggles she will be facing, along with sharing in her joys.

The part where Cathy’s story is different from Pam’s, is that Cathy’s story is not simple. I want you to know, Cathy was one of the faithful women to have regular mammograms. Knowing our family history of breast cancer, she started having regular mammograms around 34. My maternal grandmother and my maternal aunt both died of breast cancer. My grandmother was 40 years old and the mother of 7 children. My aunt was 41 years old and the mother to 6 children. One month before Cathy’s diagnosis, she had her mammogram and had been given a clean bill of health. However, the intuitive voice within Cathy said, she needed to have something checked out. For those of us who have hit our 40th birthday, you know what it’s like when things start looking different with your body. You wonder if it’s age related or if it’s something that needs investigating. A few years before Cathy’s diagnosis, at one of her mammograms, the technician noticed and commented on something for my sister to watch. She had a nipple that was becoming inverted. Cathy had wondered if it was age related. However, that little seed planted in the back of her mind a few years earlier, needed to be completely set to rest. So one month after her clean bill of health, Cathy asked to have her nipple investigated. Upon a minor biopsy, the doctor’s discovered that they needed to do a full biopsy. With that biopsy came the news that she did indeed have breast cancer. This type of breast cancer cannot be diagnosed with mammograms. It does not form a lump until the end stages. We have since learned that the best way to diagnosis this type of breast cancer is with an MRI. You have a wonderful doctor in the North West. He is a pioneer in this area of breast cancer research. Dr. Bruce Porter is well respected and my sister has been fortunate to have benefited from all his hard work.

Cathy was forced to make some quick decisions regarding her treatment, and as she quickly read through materials on the subject, she thought it was rather apropos that while she was losing her breast, her daughter was just developing hers.

Cathy is now 10 + years past diagnosis. We have hope in tomorrow, as wonderful organizations such as Coats & Clark help to raise funds to do more research. Hopefully one day there will be a cure.

Like the women before us who knew how precious thread was to producing their needed garments and wears, let us not waste our lives. Let us re-purpose to live our lives fully. Intentionally. Deliberately. Let us not stuff our dreams and hopes into cupboards and plastic bins, but rather, enjoy the beauty of life around us and be grateful for what we do have.

Through the history of historical dress, I would like to introduce you to my friend, Dawn, and her grandmothers, along with my family, and the women who have been stricken with breast cancer and heart disease. We have chosen to represent these women in costumes from the year of their birth. Those who are survivors are shown in their modern day garments, in addition to their birth year garments, representing that they are alive and well today. Please note, these costumes are historically inspired, not historically accurate.

Dawn Luckham is a wonderful historical costumer, who lives in Ontario Canada. 1812 is the date the Coats & Clark Company opened their first factory, producing cotton sewing thread. Her connection with this date is her involvement in sewing for re-enactors for The War of 1812. Although The War of 1812 was a continent away from the Coats Factory, the citizens of Upper Canada strongly felt their connection to the British Empire.

Dawn’s paternal family comes from Paisley, Scotland. In 2012, Coats & Clark will be celebrating their 200th anniversary, that’s exciting!
Dawn’s family history also touched on both heart disease and breast cancer. Her paternal grandmother, Elsie Irene Hutchings Caldwell, 1898 1994, suffered a heart attack when she was in her early 60’s. She survived and lived well into her 90’s. Her maternal grandmother, Annabelle Lillian McBirney Brennan 1910-1994, can only be described as a remarkable breast cancer survivor suffering through double mastectomy surgeries and repeated lumpectomies as the cancer would resurface again and again. She lived as “the grand matriarch” of the family, directing their lives with fierce love and a remarkable will and determination to live life to its fullest. She survived into her late 80’s.

Introducing my family:

Viola Isabelle Kelly Price born 1904 died of heart disease 1970 (paternal grandmother).

Helen Marie Duffy born 1905 died of breast cancer 1949 (maternal grandmother).

Elizabeth Duffy Woram born 1939 died of breast cancer 1980 (maternal aunt)

Dolores Duffy born 1937 diagnosed with breast cancer 2008 almost 2 years past diagnosis(maternal aunt).

Catherine Ann Price Norgaard born 1955 10+ years past diagnosis, (sister), alive and well today!!!

It has been Cathy’s love for sewing and passion for life that truly inspires me. I am grateful she has been given so many more years to live life to its fullest. It is Cathy who introduced me to the Sewing Expo, and now we are making it a yearly event, learning wonderful new skills and enjoying all the lovely new products.

Thank you Coats & Clark and Sew Expo, for enriching so many lives,one class, one technique, one stitch at a time.


Laura said...

What an inspiring story! I hope to see you at Expo!
Laura in Puyallup

PS Tell Cathy I'm sending this link to Princess (from sewing retreat). She was co-chair of Puget Sound Race For the Cure.

Carol said...


I passed your message along to Cathy. Thank you for stopping in to read our story. I suspect you have an inspiring story to share, too.

I'll be looking for you up on the stage on Sunday, at Expo. :)

Kathryn said...

I sit here full of inspiration Carol, thank you for sharing this powerful story!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story and remarkable talent in making and researching the outfits!

Carol said...

Thank you for stopping by and reading. :) May you each be blessed.