SVMC & Local Organizations Unite to Bring Comfort to Cancer Patients
Members of the Cancer Center Community Crusaders (known as the 4Cs) and the Quiet Valley Quilters have joined forces to support patients at Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center. The three organizations worked together to provide 14 handmade quilts to cancer patients in October, who had transitioned to hospice care. The quilters are preparing quilts for six additional patients now.
Cancer patients and staff build deep relationships throughout their appointments, sometimes over many years. Once a patient has transitioned to hospice care, they no longer come to the Cancer Center. Both patients and staff feel that separation. “Giving one of these beautiful quilts to a patient is a way of recognizing the significance of their journey and to continue to be there with them. It communicates that they are not alone,” said Charlene Ives, a medical oncologist at the Cancer Center.
The idea to give quilts arose more than a year ago. The staff had been giving personal gifts to patients to acknowledge their last treatment. These special gifts were meant to mark the transition between the end of treatment and the start of hospice care. Honoring this transition seemed to help both patients and staff cope with the separation. Ives became aware of other cancer treatment centers providing transition kits, which included quilts. She brought the idea to the Breast Care Program Leadership Team for consideration. This group includes physicians, nurses, volunteers and others.
Avis Hayden, a former SVHC employee, was part of this group and a member of the Quiet Valley Quilters Guild. She felt the Guild might be interested in providing quilts for these transition kits. She researched similar programs around the country, including Peace Health in Oregon, whose staff provided the details necessary to launch a program in Bennington. Hayden introduced the idea to the Quiet Valley Quilters Guild. Hayden approached the Cancer Center Community Crusaders to help fund the project. “The 4Cs were very receptive. We couldn’t do this without their financial support. The Guild members provide a substantial amount of the fabric, and certainly the time in design and sewing, but the larger pieces of fabric necessary for the quilt backs would have been a financial burden for Guild members had the 4Cs not stepped in.
“Most of our committee members are survivors or caregivers. So when Avis came to us with the idea of supporting patients with handmade quilts, it really resonated with us,” said Joanne Holden, a member of the Cancer Center Community Crusaders.
To date, more than a dozen quilters have worked to sew blocks for the quilts. The Group holds workshops a few times a year to assemble the blocks and finish the quilts. The staff at the Cancer Center will choose a quilt for each patient transitioning to hospice care, just as they have chosen special gifts in the past. “We will do this as a team. We hold each other up,” Ives said. “The quilts stay with the patients’ families after the patient passes away. It is a way of remembering this time in their loved one’s life.”