A Father’s Day Tribute to My Dad Who Was Not Defined By Cancer

I wrote a Happy Father’s Day post dedicated to my Dad in June 2011.  In that post there was this passage:  “As I celebrate Father’s day this ear, I am so grateful that my father has survived his bout with stage 3 colon cancer.  And as of today, he is cancer free and in great health.”  Just two short years ago we were celebrating survivorship.

Not long after that original Father’s day post, my Dad was once again diagnosed with cancer.  The colon cancer had returned and metastasized in his liver; this time with one tumor and major surgery was required.

In January of 2012, he had a liver resection done to remove the tumor.  After 1/3 of his liver was removed, and an extended hospital stay, he entered into rehabilitation center for what would be a long 2 month journey, to begin to get his strength back.  He fully recovered and was once again free of cancer.  This however, did not last long.  In December of 2012, he began to have warning signs that the cancer had returned.  After a brief stay in the hospital, our worst nightmare was realized yet once again.  This time his colon cancer was back and once again metastasized in the liver.  Three tumors were found, his cancer was now advanced stage IV.

Dad SleepingThis Father’s Day I am dedicating another post, this time in his memory.  My Father lost his brave, courageous battle with cancer this past April.

So today I want to share a little piece of the man my Dad was, and pay honor to him because his journey with cancer is why I started Layers of Love.  But my Dad did not let cancer define him.

On the morning my Dad passed away my nephew posted a photo of facebook of my Dad smiling while eating crabs and titled it “simple pleasures.”  If there were ever two words that described my Dad “simple pleasures” would be it.

My Dad lived his life enjoying the simple pleasures.  He loved fishing, following sports, especially baseball and the Phillies, relaxing on his back porch with a cigar, and he savored a good meal.  He was happiest in the company of his family and friends.  He didn’t need to be the center of attention, in fact, he would just like to be sitting quietly enjoying the banter and conversation of everyone around him.  On his last stay in the hospital, I was talking to him about our conversations in the car on the way to various appointments over the past few years. At the end of that conversation he looked at me and said, “I just love to listen to my children’s conversations.”

Simple pleasures.

My Dad above all was an honorable, giving man, a protector of his family.  On the last few days of his life even though he was unable to speak, he continued to shelter my siblings from his pain and illness. In fact, in the 4 years that I went with him to each doctor visit, I never once heard him say he had pain. He never mentioned pain until he came home one final time into the care of hospice. He took actions and made decisions as much as three months before he passed away that would prove to spare my Mom added heartbreak and sadness.  On the last three days of my Dad’s life, he taught me more about honor and giving than he had all of my life.  Even today, because my eyes are wide open, he continues to give me gifts. Honorable and giving to say the very least.

Enjoying the sunrise over the October ocean waves, rising early to brew coffee and sitting quietly to read the morning paper, watching Chase Utley hit a game winning RBI, sitting and listening to his family’s conversation around him……

Simple pleasures.

Layers of Love has been a bit quiet lately because I have taken time to be with my family.  Behind the scenes, we have continued to field private requests and have remained active shipping blankets to both individuals and infusion centers all over the United States.  Our mission will never stop.  As long as there is a chemotherapy patient we will continue to provide a brand new fleece blanket to give them comfort and warmth as they go through their treatment.  I started Layers of Love because of a need and a passion.

This is what I wrote in my welcome post over 3 years ago on this blog:

“The first time I sat with my parents in the waiting room of the Cooper Cancer Institute, I was struck by not just the number of patients who walked through the door, but by how many of them carried a tote bag with a fleece blanket tucked inside.

As my mom and I walked my dad in for his appointment, the reason became apparent – the temperature in the treatment room dropped considerably. The first thing my dad said as he settled into his chair was, “I sure wish I brought my blanket with me…it’s cold in here!” Not only is the room kept cooler, but as we all soon learned, being cold is a side effect of chemotherapy.

While hospital blankets are of course provided, they are the standard, thin sort. Hardly the type I’d imagine would provide any real warmth and comfort. Judging by the blankets other patients chose to bring, fleece is the fabric of choice.”

I know my Dad was incredibly proud of what Layers of Love has become over the past few years we began to grow and help more patients.  He was as passionate about Layers of Love as I am.

To quote my original Father’s Day post from 2011 “So to my Dad I say, Happy Father’s Day, I love you.  In honor of you, Layers of love, my passion (and yours) continues to go on.”

My Dad

In the days since my Dad lost his battle with cancer we have been overwhelmed by the donations of brand new fleece blankets in his memory.  Next week Layers of Love will begin to share photos of all the generous donations we have received.  We are truly blessed and grateful for everyone who has sent us blankets.  You have brought my family and I plenty of comfort and warmth. Thank you. 

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Chai Lifeline

Today we at Layers of Love are very proud to announce that we will be donating child-sized blankets to the international non-profit organization Chai Lifeline.   Chai Lifeline operates around the world.  The non-profit is best known for it’s cancer support but they help children suffering from any life threatening illness, as well as serious chronic or genetic conditions.

Chai Lifeline - Fighting Illness With Love

Chai Lifeline offers over 20 FREE year-round services.   The non-profit is well know for their summer camps-Camp Simcha.  Their website states:

“Our most famous programs are our two overnight summer camps for seriously ill children. Camp Simcha, for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, is one of the only “cancer camps” that accept children on active treatment, and one of the few offering two-week sessions. Camp Simcha Special is the first camp designed to meet the medical and social needs of children with more than 60 disparate diagnoses. Together, these camps give 400 children and teens a vacation from illness, pain, and isolation every summer.”*

Along with Camp Simcha the non-profit also offers many other services to children and families:

“In addition to camp, Chai Lifeline offers professional case management; Big Brothers and Big Sisters; special events; sibling programs; advocacy and information; insurance support services; counseling; meals and hospital visits; retreats and family respite vacations, family days, and holiday parties; tutoring; crisis intervention and bereavement services. 

Services are developed to meet the changing needs of our families. For example, when studies confirmed our clients’ reports that one of the major reasons for missing medical appointments was a lack of transportation, Chai Lifeline began a transportation assistance program that provides thousands of rides to physicians’ offices, hospitals, and treatment centers every year.”*

Chai Lifeline has locations all over the United States and the world.

Chai Lifeline’s mission statement:

“Chai Lifeline’s guiding principles are

  • That seriously ill children need and deserve as happy and normal a childhood as possible;
  • That illness affects each member of the family;
  • That the well-being of an ill child is impacted by the well-being of his or her family;
  • That pediatric illness can have a devastating financial effect on families.

With this in mind, Chai Lifeline strives to

  • Find ways to bring joy to the lives of our young patients and their families through creative, innovative, and effective family-centered programs, activities, and services;
  • Engender hope and optimism in children, families, and communities;
  • Educate and involve communities in caring for ill children and their families;
  • Provide unparalleled support throughout the child’s illness, recovery, and beyond;
  • Offer all services free of charge to ensure that every family has access to the programs it needs;
  • Embody the ideals of compassion, kindness, and caring for others inherent in Jewish culture and life“*
In this video from Chai Lifeline you can get a glimpse into the effects of childhood cancer on three  families.

We are very excited and look forward to a long relationship with Chai Lifeline.  Since we began Layers of Love in 2010 we have been very passionate about providing as many blankets as we can to pediatric cancer patients.  As long as there are chemotherapy patients we will do our best to provide them with the comfort and warmth of a brand new  fleece blanket.

*Taken directly from the Chai Lifeline website.

To date Layers of Love has donated close to 400 brand new fleece blankets to both adult and pediatric chemotherapy patients.  Those donations have gone to cancer centers all over the United States. We proudly are working hard to collect child-sized blankets for both Chai Lifeline and The Isaiah Alonso Foundation. We are proud to say we have never turned down a privately requested blanket and have shipped those requested blankets to patients both in the United States and Canada.  We have been able to provide these blankets because of the generous donations from our friends all over the world.  Thank you!

This is the perfect time to think about donating a child-sized blanket.   If you have a fleece fabric you would like to donate, you can contact us here in the comments or at: patty@layersoflove.net  We accept brand new fleece fabric and no sew fleece fabric kits (available at many craft stores).  Don’t have the time or not sure how to put a kit together?  No problem, we can put the kits and fabric donations together for you.  Not sure about sizing or measurements?  We invite you to take a moment to look at our FAQ tab and Guidelines tab above this post to see our recommendations for donating child-sized blankets.

If your community group would like to donate to Layers of Love, please contact us: patty@layersoflove.net We have worked and continue to work with several groups, from giving directions of how to put the blankets together, supplying scissors, even gathering more volunteers for your group if needed.  Making blankets truly is community collaboration at its best!

An Amazing Project by an Amazing Young Lady

We are gearing up to make another delivery of blankets!  This one will be going to Cooper Cancer Institute in Voorhees, New Jersey. We deliver a lot of blankets both in bulk amounts to cancer centers and individually requested blankets for those who contact us privately ( patty@layersoflove.net )  to have one shipped out for a loved one going through chemotherapy treatment.  Our mission statement is Layers of Love: Comforting chemotherapy patients one blanket at a time.

But here is what you might not know.

Handmade tags, Marissa made for each blanket.

Every blanket has a story.  Every blanket donated to us has been handmade by someone who cares enough to take the time to donate a blanket.  This holiday season we have received many donations from across the country.  Many times I just receive the donated blankets, and all I know is the address of where it was shipped from.  But when I do know the back story it makes the blanket come to life. When I deliver that blanket I can tell the chemotherapy patient where it came from and any other fact I know about the person(s) who made it.

When I started Layers of Love, it was mainly because I wanted help curtail one of the terrible side effects that chemotherapy patients endure while going through treatment, being susceptible to cold.  I wanted to help provide comfort and warmth.  What I didn’t know is that not only will the blanket provide the patient with physical comfort and warmth, but it would also provide emotional comfort and warmth.  It is emotionally uplifting to know that a stranger has cared enough to donate a blanket for them as they go through their treatment battling this terrible disease.  It touches their hearts.

You’ll remember Robyn, from our last post Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Deeds and her incredible drive for Layers of Love.  Now it’s time to let you know about another member of her family, who has done and equally amazing drive for us.

Marissa is Robyn’s 12-year-old daughter.  Robyn and Marissa were looking for a project that Marissa could do for her upcoming Bat Matzvah. When Robyn and Marissa found Layers of Love, they went right into action!  Marissa put together a blog: Get Cozy During Chemo and began her blanket drive.  She set up a donation link on her blog so that anyone could help out her drive by donating money so they could purchase the fleece to make the blankets, her Mom sent out emails to all their friends to let them know what Marissa was doing, and they were off and running.

After raising money to purchase fleece fabric she set up her first blanket party and over 60 friends and family came out to help put together the blankets!

“I was really surprised, I knew people were coming and I didn’t know how many but I was surprised at how many actually came,” Marissa said. “We have a few people from our community helping and a lot of my friends.”

When I asked Marissa how she has had such success with her blanket drive she said,  “I made a Facebook event, my mom constantly posted on facebook &  twitter and her blog CancerHawk,  which more people read and it just got around quickly from social media.”

After her first blanket party, Marissa had a second blanket party hosted at her Mom’s favorite clothing store Emily Grace.  It was an all day event, where you could come in to the store, donate toward a blanket, help put together blankets, and shop for a 20% store wide discount.  They made 45 more blankets at the party!  WOW!

Marissa’s Bat Mitzvah is in May. She set a goal of 180 blankets to donate for cancer patients.  Why 180? Derivatives of the number 18 symbolize “life” and “good luck” in Judaism.  You can also read more about why Marissa picked Layers of Love, and why she wanted to donate blankets for chemotherapy patients in her Why blankets? …..My story post on her blog.  Marissa loves hanging out with her friends and loves cheerleading.

Just a portion of the donated blankets from Marissa ready to out for delivery.

Marissa is another example of an ordinary person doing extraordinary deeds.  She is a wonderful young lady.  These handmade fleece blankets will be so welcomed by the chemotherapy patients they will be donated to.  They will provide comfort and warmth both emotionally and physically.   We are so grateful to both Marissa and Robyn for their hard work, and their amazing inspiration.  Both Marissa and Robyn are truly making a difference to so many people.  Thank you for all that you do, thank you for all that you have done.  Thank you for all the blankets.  Thank you.

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Deeds

As you may or may not know, Layers of Love was born and has lived almost solely through the power of social media.  When I first had the idea for Layers of Love it was born because of a dear friend’s words to me in an email late one night.  20 words that  brought Layers of Love to life.  Said over the internet.

Layers of Love was born.  And we have lived primarily through social media since our launch back in February of 2010.  Twitter, Facebook, our website and here on our blog.  That is how we have spread the word.  That is also how we have met so many wonderfully incredible people doing so many incredible things.

“Individually we are one drop.  Together we are an ocean.”  ~Satoro

I am a firm believer in that quote.  We at Layers of Love believe in one blanket at time, one patient at a time.  We do what we can to help as many chemotherapy patients as we can.  We do all of this through the generosity of individuals, most we’ve never even met.  Our blanket donations come from not only across the state and all over the country, but the world.  We don’t accept monetary donations, only fleece blanket donations.  Because solely of the generosity of others we have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

Hang on because this is where the story of Layers of Love gets even better. We have the fortune of, through Twitter, meeting a wonderful woman. Enter cancerHAWK.  She found us through twitter.  She was looking for a project for her daughter to take on for her upcoming bat mitzvah.  They decided on making blankets for Layers of Love.  We have a full blog post coming up soon with much more on her daughter.  She is an amazing young woman. You would think this is where the story ends, right?

Wrong.

Let’s get back to twitter and our friend cancerHAWK.  Let me introduce her.  Her name is Robyn.  Robyn started a campaign over a week ago on Twitter.  For every new follower she received for the week, until October 31, she would donate a blanket to us.  Each new follower=a new blanket for a chemotherapy patient.

WOW.

JUST WOW.

We at Layers of Love were floored.  Generosity that we couldn’t believe.

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Robyn.  She was one of the most inspirational women I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.  What she has done is amazing.  Robyn lost her husband Alan, to a rare form of cancer July of last year.  She has 3 incredible children.  And as she states on her blog  “When I ask myself what can I do with the lemons that have been thrown my way, I know what Alan would say. He’d say, “Make Lemonade.” cancerHAWK is my lemonade.”  One thing she said during our conversation has stuck with me ever since, “If I can make someone’s journey brighter, that’s what I want to do.”  

That is simply beautiful.  She is one beautiful woman.

Her very successful twitter campaign gained her 148 new followers.  Which in turn means 148 blankets donated to Layers of Love.  One woman, one campaign, one GIANT generous heart.

Layers of Love can never adequately thank her for all she has done for us. Giving the gift of not just a fleece blanket to a chemotherapy patient, but giving the patient comfort and warmth, and letting them know that they are not alone in their battle with this terrible disease.  The gift of a handmade blanket does provide them with warmth to help with the terrible side effect of the chemotherapy treatment but it also provides warmth for their hearts, it’s comforting to know that someone they have never met does care.

THANK YOU Robyn.  Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for your beautiful heart.  Most importantly, thank you for you.

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Be sure to follow cancerHAWK on twitter.

Visit the CancerHawk Blog  The real deal for cancer patients & their caregivers….

“Like” CancerHawk on Facebook

In advance of our upcoming post on Robyn’s daughter, you might want to take a look at the Get Cozy During Chemo blog.

Stay the Course Light a Star

“When the world says “Give up,” hope whispers “Try it one more time.” ~Author Unknown

Our very good friends over in Mansfield Ohio, the wonderful children’s charity Friends Like Us, were hit back at the end of February with a devastating flood. Since we launched Layers of Love we have had a relationship with Friends Like Us. Mark and his wonderful children’s charity, were one of the first friends we communicated with through our social media efforts. Since our first tweets together over a year ago we have built a very strong friendship. What does Friends Like Us do? They are a nonprofit childhood cancer organization with a goal to help children who have been devastated by cancer through their treatments. With all the pain and heartache that can come with this disease, we want to leave a lasting impression of love and hope with them.

As we announced earlier this year we are working this year collecting child sized fleece blankets for children who are going through chemotherapy treatment to add to their Chemo Bear Packages. They have given many children and their families a great deal of hope by providing them with these packages to help them ease the pain and uncertainty of going through chemotherapy treatment. Friends Like Us, works tirelessly for children who have been diagnosed with cancer.

As devastating as the flood was and all the damage it brought to Friends Like Us, the damage hasn’t stopped there, not only did they lose a great deal personally, their charity took a big hit as well, it has been almost complete loss for them. They have been trying to recoup some of the losses with local agencies but haven’t had any luck through that venue to date. So they are doing what they can on their own. As Friends Like Us states on their website, “We did everything we could to keep the water out and as fast is it came in, we couldn’t keep it out. It was like a small river flowing and all we could do is run around to get things put up as fast as we could, but it was too late for a lot of it. We lost so much due to the damages caused from the water. We are working hard on the recovery process, but need so much help with repairs and financially. We just can’t do it on our own!!!” Friends Like Us lost a lot of Chemo Bears, medical supplies, sibling toys, many coloring books, books and lots of supplies. You can view some photos from the flood on their website.

We are asking today if you can help them in any way possible, no donation IS TOO SMALL, every bit counts, to get them back on their feet and running again so that their mission of providing children with their Chemo Bear Packages can go on, move forward and begin to continue again.

Friends Like Us has made it very easy to donate to their cause. Simply go to their website http://www.friendslikeus.org/ and click on the donations tab at the top of the page, you can also donate through your mobile device with their QR code by going here.

Thank you for your help, it is appreciated more than you will ever know.

 

Thank you to the wonderful charity of Friends Like Us for not only everything they have done for children and their families who have been devastated by cancer, but for everything they will continue to do well into the future.  Layers of Love is grateful not only for the fantastic work they do, but for their friendship.

 

“Stay the course, light a star, change the world where’er you are.” ~Richard Le Gallienne