Thursday, October 25, 2012

Donations & A Day of Learning with Lucile

Part of donation from Jan and Duane S.
 Last week, I met with Jan & Duane S. in Seattle to pick up a very generous donation of nearly 10 bags of fabric and quilting books - about 75 books! What bounty of gorgeous fabric and inspiring pattern ideas. These gifts will make it easy to supply our quilters for some time to come. Thank you, Jan and Duane!
Lucile and two of her beautiful quilts
I asked Lucile if she would come and teach me more about quilting. Lucile is very, very good at sewing, as you will know if you read this blog. She knows how to do so much with a sewing machine and a serger! I wanted to be able to take some of our small pieces of fabric and make them into larger pieces so that they would be easier to work with, especially for our beginning quilters - or for those who don't like working with smaller pieces. They are lovely and in perfect condition; they just take more time to piece and sew and iron.

Lucile knows just what to do. She brought samples which she had made, so that she could not just TELL me, but SHOW me how to do it. She is a natural teacher. It was fun and I did get the hang of some simple steps.

Lucile brought two different squares which she had prepared. She had cut two square pieces of fabric into triangles, swapped them and sewed them back into squares. She showed me how to select and measure and cut and sew a border around the squares...and then do it again and again. Here is the finished quilt top.
Quilt top started by Lucile, finished by me (taught by Lucile)
 You can see that there are three different borders around those triangles/squares.

 Here are 26 more quilts that Lucile & Noble delivered to us for the patients at Seattle Children's Hospital! 
26 more from Lucile!
Thank you, Lucile & Noble!

Today, I met Kathy W. and picked up nine boxes and nine bags of gorgeous fabric. Some of it has already been made into quilt tops by Kathy's talented (late) mother. There is every conceivable color in this stash. It filled my SUV. Thank you, Kathy! We now have so much fabric that I can hardly walk into our family room.

So here is your part: please consider sewing a blanket or quilt for Katie's Comforters Guild to donate to Seattle Children's Hospital. If you don't sew, please ask your friends and family who do sew if they would like to either sew with/for us, or join or guild and sew with/for us. The hospital is nearly out of blankets and Lucile makes a quilt every day as it is! Please help us to turn this bounty of beautiful fabric into comfort for sick children! Thank you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thank You for Listening Generously

“When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time.”
Rachel Naomi Remen

I rarely write postings for all of my blogs at the same time, but today, I am doing just that. If you visit any of my blogs ( , ,  and ) this is what you will find.

It’s been a deeply moving season here. The end of summer brings with it memories of Katie’s passing (August 16th), my parents’ anniversary (this year they marked 60 years of marriage on August 17th), the start of the school year (David is a junior in college, studying in Italy for a semester; Katie should be a senior in high school, looking at college choices and enjoying her last year at home with friends – but she is not). It also marks the anniversary of the start of her illness, her diagnosis, and the 10 months which were a kind of living hell, leading to her passing. The 10th of October, the day we entered the hospital “for tests” and didn’t come out for months; October 13th, the day we found out that it was cancer (though not what type) and Katie’s first round of chemotherapy began.

Gregg let me know during this time that he is not comfortable hearing the news, in detail, of all of my involvement in the world of cancer. He can take only so much of it. My work does not give him solace the way it does me; it simply reminds him of what took our daughter away. When I asked him if the advances in research, cures and awareness make him feel better, he replied, “No.” None of it will bring Katie back, so it’s not a comfort to him. Even though it comforts me, I need to filter some of what I ask him to participate in. Fair enough.

Shortly after my book reading event at Eagle Harbor Books in September, Gregg and I attended the Ben Towne Foundation’s annual BENefit. We were “table captains,” which really means that we gathered interested family and friends and all sat together for dinner. The Foundation makes it so easy to “host” a table that I wouldn’t feel right calling it “hosting.” That was the second cancer-related event in a month’s time, but Gregg loves the Townes and wants to support the Foundation.

At the BENefit, Dr. Michael Jensen announced that his work on relapsed leukemia has been given approval by the FDA to move into clinical trials. That means that children here in Seattle who have no other hope than a miracle have a chance at that miracle; they can enter a clinical trial using their own re-engineered T-cells to fight their own cancer. It will begin sometime in the next few weeks.

This announcement brought our table to tears. We were sitting with my parents, brother and sister-in-law, as well as with two other couples who are friends – both of whom have watched their own daughters die from brain cancer. Three sets of bereaved parents heard the news together. It was a dramatic moment, and one that has truly changed my life.

I finally feel relief.
I feel relief, for the first time since Katie died.

Since Katie died, I have felt like the parent of a murdered child. I have felt that the murderer is “at large,” and beyond the capacity of “law-enforcement” to catch. It hurts. I feel it’s my duty as her mother to catch her killer and bring him to justice. I didn’t realize that so much of my work and energy has been directed to catching this killer – but it has.

After the BENefit, several family members and friends joined me for a tour of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research. At the end of the tour, I took Dr. Jensen aside and thanked him. I told him that for the first time since Katie’s passing, I feel as if I can relax. I know that the killer is now identified. We may not have him on death row yet, but his whereabouts are known, and he is in the crosshairs of the law. They are going to catch him, and stop him from killing other children (and adults). This is Dr. Jensen’s mission, and it is now beginning to be available to patients (not just lab mice).

On the tour, my dad asked Dr. Jensen two important questions (and I think I heard the answers correctly):
1)   How much does it cost annually to do what you are doing?
Answer: $1.5 million
2)   How much do you need annually to be able to conduct experiments on the cancers you want to cure next?
Answer: $15 million.

Friends, what is being spent on the next election makes this sum look positively PALTRY. This research has the potential to cure children AND adults. If you know anyone who can contribute to it, please invite them to contact me or the Ben Towne Center. I will be happy to effect an introduction.

What I want most to share with you is the fact that I feel a new freedom now. The baton is in Dr. Jensen’s hands (and those of his colleagues, some of whom were part of Katie’s care team). I will continue to do my best to raise awareness and financial support, but I can finally let go of this part of my work, because it is being done by the professionals. And some of the thanks for that goes to Carin and Jeff Towne, and the memory of their precious son, Ben.

I wasn't aware that I was holding my breath for this to happen, but I have been…and I can rest now. Thank God that prayers are being answered! The timing was not sufficient to save Katie’s life, but I believe that the cure will be part of her legacy.

Thank you for reading my blogs, for commenting, for supporting our family through this time. Though we will never be “over it,” your listening, caring and praying has been part of our healing process. That process continues - and finding a cure for cancer is surely a part of it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Donations from Dottie

This summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Dottie A.
Linda & her mother, Dottie
Dottie is the mother of one of my friends from Seattle Children's Hospital (Linda).

Linda made a big difference in my life by the way she took care of Katie's physical therapy needs, as well as her emotional needs. I wrote about it in my book, "Because of Katie." When Dottie came to visit Linda, they came to our small town, and we spent several very pleasant hours together.

Dottie is a VERY talented quilter. Very talented.
She shared photos of some of her quilts, and they are lovely. We had a lot of fun talking about quilting, visiting our local fabric store and talking about life in general.

Dottie decided to make quilts for our guild, even though she lives in another state. In the following videos, she shows what she has made; Linda is bringing them back with her from Dottie's home.
I can't get the last one to load...*RATS* Well, you can get the idea from the first two!
Thank you for making these quilts, Dottie!
Thank you for delivering them, Linda!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Donation of Fabric

Thank you, Tomoko, 
for sending this box of lovely fabric and 
the Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores gift card! 
What a blessing this will be to our guild's quilters!

Donations like this one are part of our "economy of grace," and they help us continue to do our work, since we don't actively seek financial support. We are thankful!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

As September Was Winding Down...

...there was a lot of activity in Katie's Comforters Guild!
The last week of the September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, saw your president working for awareness and support.

On Sunday, September 23rd, I made a presentation about my book, about our guild and about childhood cancer research at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island, WA. There is news about this event on both of my other blogs:
Gberger and 
abundant living after catastrophe .

I brought Katie's quilt with me to help "show and tell," and Donna's and Sandy's quilt (see the previous posting) was hanging on display in the front window of the store for a week, behind the poster of my book's cover. It provided a wonderful illustration of our guild's mission, and what our talented, generous members and friends do!
Several members and friends of our guild were in attendance at this event, and one of them was Bonnie P. She brought with her a new half-dozen quilts to donate to the guild. Here they are:
Awesome tie-dye center with borders and Bonnie's trademark "FROG" label
This is a photo of two together - a sunshine theme and a dinosaur theme
Beautiful batik
Handkerchief-style print
Anchors aweigh with mattress-ticking stripes
Thank you, Bonnie!

The day after this event, I was invited to speak to a group of quilters who meet to sew for charity. They wanted to know more about our guild, so I took Katie's comforter and Donna's and Sandy's quilt, along with some brochures, and spoke to them. They have decided to sew a donation for us, and I'm so thankful!

On Friday, September 28th, Dr. Michael Jensen, director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research announced at the annual Ben Towne Foundation BENefit that the FDA has given permission for clinical trials to commence using Dr. Jensen's T-cell therapy in treating childhood cancer. This is wonderful news! Treatment with little side effects and no harm done to patients is a dream-coming-true. The Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for Cancer Research supports the Jensen Laboratory, and their work holds great promise.

September was an awesome month for progress in pediatric cancer awareness, research and comfort. Thank you for all you do to help make this possible!