Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Cancer Roller Coaster

I haven't written about Benny, our 12 year old golden retriever, for quite some time. Progressing through a cancer diagnosis and subsequent medical care is quite an emotional roller coaster, a road far too many of us know far too well. The highs can be near heavenly as good news must certainly be reveled in. And the lows ... well, they can be all too wrenching.

In January, we received great and sad news:  Benny was officially designated in clinical remission for the oral melanoma diagnosed back in December 2010 ... yea! Nearly in the same breath, a tumor was discovered on his left shoulder. We thought it likely a metastasis of the melanoma but no ... it turned out to be an unrelated cancer ... hemangiosarcoma.

Harry and I constantly endeavor to make decisions we hope are wise and that emphasize quality of life over longevity. With mixed feelings, we have proceeded with IV chemotherapy for Benny in hopes of slowing down tumor growth. The first treatment was somewhat rough for Benny (intestinal distress ... enough said about that) ... but the second treatment has gone far better as the oncologists at Oregon State sent us home armed with two anti-nausea meds and an antibiotic targeted for the gastrointestinal system.

Benny, affectionately called their "miracle golden" by the oncologists at OSU, is tired for several days after each chemo treatment, but so far has bounced back within a week, as you can see from this photo of Benny and Frankie in the snow:

Benny (left) and Frankie

Growing up in Tennessee, snow typically meant surprise play days of no school. So long as I don't have to drive, I still feel euphoric when those big, beautiful flakes fall!

Frankie ... throw the next snowball!
Frankie ... rolling, rolling, rolling!

Benny loves the snow too, but not quite so much as Frankie who is utterly mad for it. The shaved patch on Benny's shoulder is from a biopsy surgery. The oncologists had hoped to remove the HAS tumor but it was already too involved in the shoulder joint, thus inoperable, hence the chemo approach. 

Handsome Benny

 ... and speaking of handsome boys, here is a picture of Z, our strictly indoors-only kitty who far prefers to view the snow (or rain, birds, squirrels etc) from his scratching post. He is 2 years old now and has shown absolutely no interest in going outside. He does have rather beautiful blue eyes, doesn't he?

Z admiring the snow from his cozy, indoor scratching post

Z hasn't quite forgiven us for bringing an uncouth, uncivilized, overly enthusiastic golden retriever puppy into our lives. Alas and finally, Z has given up all hope that Nickel is visiting ... almost a year later, Z reluctantly tolerates Nickel who simply doesn't understand how to respect a kitty properly. Will he ever learn?

It turns out, Nickel, like Frankie, is utterly mad for the snow. On this particular snow day, however, Nickel was playing with his pals at doggy day care. He simply has more energy than all the rest of his household members combined ... and we all love Nickel so much more when he is, well ... tired!

Nickel (3 months old) sleeping on step
Nickel (1 year) sleeping on same step

I will post some photos of quilts I am working on soon ... hope you are all well and happy!

Learn to Quilt I Winter 2012

Despite late spring snow here in the Pacific Northwest, a wonderful group of women completed the Learn to Quilt class last week at the Pine Needle. I am so pleased and proud to show some photos of their work!

Diane chose a bright green paisley print for her feature fabric. The "quilt bug" totally snared Diane:  she came to class 3 (of 5) with her quilt top nearly finished ... then in class 4, Diane brought 6 pillowcases she made to go with her quilt that will go on a day bed in her home. I especially enjoy the way the 4-patch fabrics dance happily across the quilt top along with the cheerful fabrics she chose for her borders.

Diane's Quilt Top

Lynn chose an Asian dragonfly print for her feature fabric. The rich gold background fabric shows off the blue dragonfly fabric while the bright pink squares add excitement! I understand that a visitor fell in love with Lynn's quilt and is the lucky recipient of her quilt. Meanwhile, I am hoping for a photo ... with borders ... so I can share with all of you.

Lynn's Quilt ... work in progress

Due to the snow, schools opened on a delayed schedule so Kathy wasn't able to come to class 5. Here are her quilt blocks as she was sewing the rows of blocks together. Isn't it fascinating how different the same pattern looks interpreted with different fabrics? The background fabric she chose is a small scale cream and beige floral ... a perfect complement for her feature fabric ... along with the soft gold and red she chose for her 4-patch blocks.

Kathy's Quilt ... work in progress

Nancy chose teal, cream and brown batiks for her quilt. As we auditioned borders, there wasn't enough distinction between the outer and middle borders so Nancy added a narrow border of brown ... which sets off her quilt beautifully ... especially lovely with the softer teal inner border.

Nancy's Quilt - Front

And check out the backing for her quilt ... Nancy used leftover scraps to make the bands of vertical strips, bordered with the soft teal she used in the front. Yea Nancy!
Nancy's Quilt - Back

Stephanie chose a black, white and red color scheme for her quilt. As she auditioned her middle and outer borders, she decided the flying geese in the corners looked too traditional for the clean, crisp feeling of her contemporary quilt. She decided  to leave off the flying geese but added a narrow red border to bring out the red in her quilt top ... a perfect accent! Stephanie had enough scraps to make a second, smaller quilt which she brought to class 5. She designed it herself using 4-patch, plain and improvisationally pieced blocks. Go Stephanie go!

Stephanie's Quilt
Stephanie's Second Quilt

Coincidentally, Elizabeth and Kathy chose the same feature fabric for their quilts. Elizabeth's choices of coordinating fabrics really bring out the blue colors in the feature fabric illustrating that even when the same feature fabrics are used, you can make the quilt your own with the colors you want to emphasize or subdue. The narrow blue border Elizabeth added clearly defines the middle and outer borders as well as emphasizes the blues in her star and 4-patch blocks. Beautiful!

Elizabeth's Quilt

Sandi's quilt will be a gift for her daughter so she was always thinking of her and the colors she likes best as she made fabric choices throughout the construction of her quilt. I love the glow of the cream background in the center and the way the pink and buttery yellow bring out the flowers in the star and outer border fabrics ... and I think Sandi did a fabulous job choosing fabrics that convey the emotions she intended in the quilt ... a warm, snuggly quilt for her daughter.

Sandi's Quilt

Sue chose Fabric Freedom's recent stained glass print of blue poppies and iris. Wow ... stunning fabrics! The medium and dark blue fabrics she used in the 4-patch blocks complement the poppy fabric beautifully. Sue also added a narrow, dark blue border between the middle and outer borders to sharply delineate those. Otherwise, the two busy prints would blend visually. The bright green she used in the inner border, along with the cream background, gives the quilt light and excitement.

Sue's Quilt

Somehow, I missed getting a photo of Val's work but hope to get a photo to share as Val finishes up her quilt. I am very proud of these women and their work! I believe that a pattern, like a recipe, is a starting place so I absolutely love it when students are willing to really look at their quilts and, when called for, go beyond the pattern's instructions.

As a teacher, there are many moments to savor and enjoy throughout a "beginning" class ... I get to see:
  • quilts emerge from initial uncertainty and occasional confusion
  • confidence grow
  • very special moments when a new quilter gets utterly hooked!