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Knitting for Cancer Patients: Bringing Tangible Comfort to People With Cancer

Updated on August 14, 2011

Each cancer patient is different. Some accept their diagnosis without question and others are in denial, unable to believe that this could happen to them. The shock, anger, fear, disbelief and myriad of other feelings are often shared with the cancer patient's family and friends who will be living the battle alongside the patient and giving strength and support whenever and however they can. Hopefully along with those emotions, there's hope, faith and a desire to fight and overcome the disease, and an inner strength to do whatever it takes to get well.

Regardless of how a person deals with a cancer diagnosis or how they go about recovery, there are many ways to bring comfort to cancer patients.  You can comfort them emotionally - be there for them, support them and help them however you can - and although you can't really ease the sometimes physically painful side effects of cancer and chemotherapy, there is a way to bring comfort to cancer patients that can make you feel better, too.


In December 2010, I wrote about knitting and crocheting for a good cause. My 99-year-old Grama knits mittens every year for the local Firefighter's Mitten Tree, which takes knitted items like mittens, scarves, hats, etc., and donates them to children in the community. Last year, she knit more than 70 pair to donate, and each year she tries to beat that record. In the past, she knit hats to donate to the hospital for premature babies.

Everyone who knows my Grama or hears about her thinks she's absolutely amazing and because I agree, I thought I should write about her and what she's doing. I challenged people to knit for a good cause, whatever that cause might be. Just recently, I received a comment from a woman whose friend had cancer and while going through chemotherapy didn't always like to wear her wigs, so this woman and a friend started making chemo caps for cancer patients. They proceeded to take it a step further and make lapghans (lap afghans) for cancer patients to use while going through their chemo treatments.

I thought this was a terrific idea and something I'd like to get involved in. In 1992, my dad was diagnosed with leukemia. He spent two years in and out of hospitals (our local hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital), had chemo treatments, a bone marrow transplant, and finally lost his battle in June 1994. He fought so hard and wanted to live so badly, but his body couldn't handle any more. I remember what an effect the chemo treatments had on him - the exhaustion, the nausea, the loss of hair, the extreme weight loss - so when I read this woman's comment, I closed my eyes and imagined him wearing a knitted chemo cap, wrapped in a knitted blanket and it brought a smile to my face, albeit a tearful one. He was a person who appreciated the small things in life and would have loved those small comforts while he went through the hell of battling cancer.

It also made me think of the families who suffer while watching a loved one fighting cancer. Of course the most difficult struggle is for the patient - I would never claim or even think otherwise, but it is an extremely hard and painful thing watching someone you love suffer and fearing for their life. Anything you can do to make that time easier for them will not only make them feel better but make you feel better as well.

If you can knit and/or crochet or know someone who can, why not look into making chemo caps, lapghans, blankets, socks or slippers for cancer patients. Anything cozy and warm that will bring them comfort and let them know that someone cares can make a huge difference to someone who is suffering. If you have someone in your life who is fighting cancer, make an item or two for them. If you don't know someone who has cancer, donate items to your local hospital or hospice. See if there are volunteer visitation programs in place for people who don't have family and friends to visit them, and bring each person you visit a hand-knit item.

It's amazing how much small things can mean to people, especially things from the heart that someone has taken the time to make with love. If you know someone who has cancer and they have family who is by their side, why not knit or crochet something for the patient and the family member(s) as well and bring them both comfort. I know that when my dad was sick, the staff at Princess Margaret Hospital and the Lodge where we stayed (a place close to the hospital where family members and released patients could stay) made a huge difference to our entire family and made an awful time in our lives just a bit brighter.

Thank you for reading

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