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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3 Years, 600 Blankets and Counting!

Tying BlanketsLayers of Love was launched on February 24, 2010.  We are nearing our three year anniversary.  Layers of Love began because of a simple need, one terrible side effect of chemotherapy treatment is being susceptible to cold.

Fleece Blanket Donations

In just under three years we have provided over 600 brand new fleece blankets to chemotherapy patients all over the United States and Canada.  We have received donations from all over the world.  We have donated blankets to Cancer infusion centers all over the United States, from Miami to New York City, from Camden, New Jersey to Milwaukee, from California to North Carolina and many more locations. We collect  both adult sized blankets and pediatric sized blankets.  We collect pediatric size blankets for two wonderful organizations: Chai Lifeline and The Isiah Alonso Foundation.  We have also shipped blankets that have been privately requested by loved ones for their friends, family members, and work colleagues.  We have received requests through our twitter account, our facebook page and through email.  Layers of Love is proud to say that we have never turned down a request for a blanket.  In fact, we have even been able to fulfill requests that have come in for multiple blankets to infusion centers from both nurses and patients.

The reason we have been able to provide so many chemotherapy patients with comfort and warmth is because of generous people just like you.  We have so many friends of Layers of Love donate blankets so that we can continue on our mission.

Community Groups

We have had community groups, church groups, Girl Scout Troops, Brownie Troops, a Life ScoutUniversity dorms, Summer Camp programs plus incredible individuals that have continuously donated blankets to us time and time again.   We are so grateful and thank you for all the support, and blanket donations we have received over the past three years.  With each day that passes by we become more and more committed to providing comfort and warmth to chemotherapy patients.  We do not intend on stopping until each and every chemotherapy patient has a blanket to provide them with comfort and warmth as they go through their treatment. What three years has taught us is that not only are we warming a chemotherapy patient’s body with our blankets, we are also warming their hearts.  What three years has taught us, is that when a chemotherapy patient receives a brand new fleece blanket that was donated from a complete stranger, their face lights up, their hope is raised,  they don’t feel so alone, their heart is indeed warmed. We hope that as we begin on this next year of our journey that you will continue to support our mission, to help us carry on the comfort and warmth.

If you would like to donate a brand new fleece blanket to Layers of Love and aren’t sure where to begin, be sure to visit our website. Check out the FAQ/Guideline tab for more information.

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.

Lending Support

Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people’s souls.
~ Melody Beattie

Lending support.  Encouraging words can make all the difference in the world,  just ask someone who has been on the receiving end of those words.  Our mission here at Layers of Love is simple: Comforting chemotherapy patients one blanket at a time.  We have been collecting blankets to give to chemotherapy patients to provide them with comfort and warmth as they are going through their treatment for cancer, my goal has aways been to give them this comfort, at a time in their lives, when perhaps they will need it most.  It’s not only about having a warm blanket, it’s about knowing they are not alone in their fight against this terrible disease.

So that brings us to our new campaign.  This photograph below is an example of the tags we attach to every blanket we donate to a chemotherapy patient.

Layers of Love Blanket Tags

We are looking to add something to our tags.  We are looking for cancer survivors who wish to lend their encouragement.  How can cancer survivors help us?  Send us a short bio on their success in fighting the disease.  What encouraging words did you hear while fighting cancer?  What or who helped you to fight even harder?  How are you doing now?  You can send us whatever you would like to add along with the short bio, perhaps a photo of yourself, or your family.  We are asking for just one or two paragraphs, (or more if you see fit)  it can be hand written or typed out, in a card, or on a piece of paper.  It’s your story feel free to share it any way you would like.   Tell your story.

We would like to attach your bio along with our tag to a blanket we are going to donate, if you are an adult it will go on an adult blanket, if you are under 18 it will go on a children sized blanket. Your story will only be added to one blanket.  Our goal is simple, we want to connect survivors to current patients.  We want to give hope from cancer survivors to patients who are currently battling cancer.  We want to connect that line of hope, when chemotherapy patients need it the most.

A donated blanket ready for a chemotherapy patient

If you are a cancer survivor and would like to give encouragement and hope to a current chemotherapy patient we appreciate your help.  You can send us your short bio, your story, photograph, whatever you would like to share with a patient to our email at: layersoflove1@gmail.com or donations@layersoflove.net  Or you can send it by tradition mail service to:

Layers of Love

665 Pine St.

Palmerton, Pa. 18071

We are very excited here at Layers of Love to start this campaign!  We are sure that by connecting cancer survivors with those who are currently battling cancer that it will give hope at a time in their lives when perhaps they need it the most. Simple words on a piece of paper can make all the difference in the world.

I love sharing my story. It’s endlessly healing. 
~Ben Vereen

We are always collecting homemade fleece blankets, as long as there is a chemotherapy patient we will be collecting blankets.  To date we have collected and donated over 125 blankets.  We collect both adult sized blankets (2 yards length or the 72inch sized kits) and children sized blankets (48″x60″).  Want to donate and not sure where to begin? Check out our FAQ tab at the top of the page.

*If your group is interested in working with us please leave us a message in the comments or you can reach us at donations@layersoflove.net  We have worked with many community groups and organizations, from providing you with enough scissors, to showing you how easy it is to put blankets together, we will help you to get your group on their way to making blankets!

We are so grateful for each and every donation we have received, and to all of you we say THANK YOU.

 Since we have started Layers of Love we have been receiving, in increasing numbers, emails from many people who either know a friend or family member who is undergoing chemotherapy and have requested blankets.  We are very proud to say we have never turned down one of these requests. Thanks to your support we are still providing these blankets when requested and will continue to do so.

A Delivery of Smiles

Last Thursday I made the first of what I hope to be three deliveries of homemade fleece blankets to the Cooper Cancer Institute. First off let me say that this day would not have been possible without all of your generous donations.  I am so thankful for all your help.  Thank you all!

It was an incredible morning!  I was met by Beth Ann Rachkis the Director of Marketing and Communications at Cooper Cancer Institute. We brought the blankets into the chemotherapy treatment room snapped a few photographs and started handing them out.

Two wonderful nurses at Cooper Cancer Institute with the blankets

It was fun to see which blankets were chosen by the patients.  We had so many different patterns to choose from.  Not only was it wonderful to bring so many smiles to the chemotherapy patients but it was equally as wonderful to chat with them for a little while.  Many who chose blankets put them to use right away as they were receiving their treatment that morning.  Comfort and warmth, plus a smile, what a great combination.

I will never forget delivering the blankets last Thursday.  It was a moving day and though I have left the building the memories I made that day have not left my mind.

So what is next?  Now the drive continues, hopefully we will gain more exposure from our website and our facebook page.  With that exposure we hope to bring more donations in for our cause.  Our goal is 74 blankets and we are over 1/3 of the way there already.  Thank you to everyone who has joined our cause and provided comfort and warmth to those chemotherapy patients who are currently undergoing treatment.  We could not have done this without YOUR help.

Where We Are

The donation drive has started.  We are very excited.  We have already received blanket kit donations in the mail.  We have heard from many that you have either planned to donate a blanket or that you already have done so and it is on it’s way to us.  We are so grateful and thank you all.

As we go along with our donation drive we will have suggestions on how you can get involved, and how you can get others involved with you.

The first of these ideas that we offer to you is a great one to bring families together.  Next weekend, we are planning a “Fleece Tying Family Fun Night”.    My daughter is going to have a few of her friends over and they are going to put several of the blanket kits together along with myself and my husband.  We are planning to make it a fun night, we have pizza on the menu and a movie and popcorn also planned.  We are going to have a lot of fun together all while volunteering and donating for a great cause.

Keep an eye right here on our blog and and if  you haven’t yet be sure to  become a Fan on facebook.  We will have photographs and updates from our Fleece Tying Family Fun Night for you.

In the meanwhile, be sure to check out our photographs of the No Sew Fleece Blanket kits that have already been donated for us to put together.  You can view all our photographs on our flickr page.

We are very excited and grateful for everyone who is donating to our cause.  Your donations are helping all the chemotherapy patients have a special homemade warm blanket to comfort them when they need it the most.