By Bob Ruggiero, director of publications and public information, Quilts, Inc
Since its 2002 inception, the Ovarian Cancer Quilt Project at MD Anderson has educated the public about the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer through the artistry of quilting. The teal ribbon quilt block has been the hallmark of the project.
Quilters from MD Anderson's Ovarian Cancer Support Group and the community have donated teal ribbon quilt blocks, which are then made into quilts and displayed each year at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. All who have been touched by ovarian cancer -- survivors, family members and friends -- have been invited to contribute a block. Quilters from across the state and local quilt shops also have created and donated hundreds of quilt blocks, plus entire quilts.
The quilt project and online auction benefit the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program, which aims to develop effective screening methods and, ultimately, a cure for ovarian cancer through innovative research.
"Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death among gynecologic cancers, and endometrial [uterine] cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer," says Pamela Weems of MD Anderson's Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. "Having a woman's cancer does not mean [just] having breast cancer anymore."
Due to these statistics, the quilt project's online auction is expanding its support of gynecologic cancer awareness by benefiting both the ovarian and uterine cancer research programs at MD Anderson. In addition, the online auction seeks to raise awareness for cervical cancer and the BRAC1 and BRAC2 genetic predispositions, which increase the risk for developing both ovarian and breast cancer.
Reaching out to quilting community
For the last year, quilt blocks have been collected by quilt shops partnering in the cause. A quilt sew-in was recently held in a Houston church gymnasium. At the conclusion of the event, more than 50 volunteers had assembled 45 complete tops and 20 uncompleted tops in just six hours.
"All the volunteers worked and worked. But they were all smiles, made new friends and were very serious about the reason they were there," notes Jill Rimes of SunFlower Quilts, who, along with her husband, Logan, organized the event.
Volunteers included shop customers, MD Anderson patients and staff, and members of local quilt guilds. "We have met many wonderful people with [this program]," Rimes says. "And several of them had a personal story to share that involved a gynecologic cancer."
Weems adds, "When we receive a quilt from a survivor, a family member or a friend, there is always a special story behind the making of the quilt. With love and compassion, quilts are made, sometimes in memory of or in honor of someone who has battled ovarian or uterine cancer. It is this generosity of spirit that touches me.
"When we display the quilts on campus, patients and their family members are able to truly enjoy the quilts. Many times, it is those family members who bid on a quilt because it brings them joy and a sense of 'home' when they are here for extended stays. This is very gratifying."
Quilters are encouraged to design unique quilts that incorporate, in some way, the gynecologic cancer awareness colors into their design:
- Teal for ovarian cancer
- Peach for uterine cancer
- Teal and pink for the ovarian/breast cancer
- Teal and white for cervical cancer