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The Ovarian Cancer Quilt Project at MD Anderson


Floral Fantasy by Billie Ryan from Texas.

Auction Oct. 25-Nov.8 Funds Ovarian Cancer Research And Builds Awareness One Quilt At A Time

Text by Mara Soloway | Images by Barbara Garvin and Shawn Green

Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer – it comes on stealthily, with symptoms that may mimic other diseases. A test that would detect the disease in its early stages does not yet exist, and as a result, later-stage diagnoses are the norm.

Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. The most common symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency. Other possible symptoms of ovarian cancer can include unusual fatigue, upset stomach, back pain or pain during sex, and menstrual changes.

The Ovarian Cancer Quilt Project at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was created to educate the public about the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer through the artistry of quilting. The first Online Quilt Auction was held in 2008. Now hosted every two years, the auction has significantly grown and has yielded more than $50,000 per auction to support research efforts at MD Anderson. The Project benefits the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program at MD Anderson. Through innovative research, this program aims to develop effective screening methods and ultimately a cure for ovarian cancer.

The 2017 Online Quilt Auction will be held from Oct. 25 through Nov. 8. Visit ovarianquilt.com during this time to see the 156 amazing quilts donated from more than 20 states and the United Kingdom, and place a bid to make one or more of them yours. A number of the donated quilts can be seen at the Ovarian Cancer Quilt Project booth at the International Quilt Festival, Nov. 2-5 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. A selection of quilts will also be displayed at MD Anderson (1515 Holcombe), Floor 2, The Park by the Donor Wall, during the first days of the auction from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Oct. 25, 26 and 27.

 

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Among the supporters of the Ovarian Cancer Quilt Project are two women with ties to MD Anderson. Barbara Garvin is a photographer and artist who has survived ovarian cancer through treatment at the cancer center. Lynn Cloutier, an advanced practice RN in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Repro­ductive Medicine, has bid on and won numerous quilts.

Garvin’s main role on the auction’s steering committee is photographing the quilts. “Any way I can help raise funds for research and create awareness for ovarian cancer is an honor to me, especially when it is MD Anderson – I am so grateful for my exceptional care,” Garvin said. She was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer in 2007. Life expectancy is only five years for late-stage diagnosis. The treatment is debilitating with lasting side effects, and Garvin wondered how and if she was going to make it.

“The number one symptom of ovarian cancer is bloating. What woman isn’t used to bloating?” Garvin said. She, like many of her friends, also wrongly assumed that pap smears detect ovarian cancer.

Garvin decided during her treatment that if she survived, she would create awareness. This avid gardener uses the butterfly as her metaphor to symbolize “cancer leaving my body, fluttering away, metamorphosis and change for a beautiful, new, more meaningful, purpose-filled life.” One of her biggest efforts was working with members of her support group to create an art car honoring survivors and victims of ovarian cancer called the Lady Teal Mobile. It debuted at MD Anderson’s Sprint for Life ovarian cancer fundraiser in 2012 and was in the Art Car Parade, among other public events. On a platform on top of the car rode Lady Teal, a mannequin painted teal — the color for ovarian cancer awareness ­— with butterfly wings emerging from her cocoon. Garvin said, “She was fabulous!” Look for the Teal Mobiles page on Facebook.

The realities of ovarian cancer are always close to Garvin. “It has been especially hard to forge ahead after the majority of my beloved ladies of teal have passed away before me, but that doesn’t diminish the true soul healing power and strength of giving of myself to others.” Garvin recently learned she is NED (no evidence of disease) after a 2016 recurrence.

Lynn Cloutier had wanted to be a nurse since childhood. A typical day in the department finds her on the units managing patient care after early-morning rounds to see each patient. She’s been with the department for 20 years, with 20 more years of experience in Michigan working as an RN with cancer patients and earning her advanced degree.

Cloutier has supported the ovarian cancer auction for many years by bidding on more than one quilt per auction. During her first auction, the novice quilter had the winning bid on three quilts. She kept one for herself and gave one to a sister and one to her daughter in honor of family members. “I have an extensive family history of cancer; multigenerational, both maternal and paternal,” she explained. “I have gifted my family members with quilts over the years, in a sense of memoriam.

“When I see them in person, the aura from each quilt is palpable. An individual created it, not only for the purpose of donation to the auction, but for support, connectedness, love and personal meaning.” The auction is also a way for Cloutier to give back to the women who have not survived and to friends who have had cancer.

Every cancer nurse has a different reason for taking on the role of care and support to cancer patients, who in Cloutier’s case are women of all ages, all stages, all faiths and all nationalities. “These women are the fabric of their families’ lives, yet they are faced with a disease that could ultimately end that role or even their life. The patient now is often younger than me, younger than my daughter. That is really difficult to see,” Cloutier said. The stress is negated by patients whose gratitude for their care reminds her of her mission to make a difference in their lives.

 

PLACE YOUR BID OCT. 25-NOV. 8

Cloutier will be bidding again this year. As a cancer nurse, she has seen for herself that there have been great advances in both treatments and symptom management. “But the journey still continues. Support for science, such as the Quilt Auction, allows those who can to answer the questions of why and how – to undertake the challenge of ending the sacrifice patients and families go through,” she said.

The Online Quilt Auction invites everyone to bid on one or more beautifully crafted quilts at ovarianquilt.com between Oct. 25 and Nov. 8. For more information about the Ovarian Cancer Quilt Project, call 713-792-2765 or email GynOnc­CommunityRelations@mdanderson.org. You can also support the auction by “Liking” the Ovarian Cancer Quilt Project Facebook page. For information on ovarian cancer, contact MD Anderson at 1-855-554-2796 or visit mdanderson.org.

A Fairy Tale of New York by Alison Garner from the United Kingdom.

A Fairy Tale of New York by Alison Garner from the United Kingdom.

Birds of a Feather 2 by Melissa Kaye from Texas.

Birds of a Feather 2 by Melissa Kaye from Texas.

Fly in Faith by Carol Connelly from Pennsylvania.

Fly in Faith by Carol Connelly from Pennsylvania.

Foxy Friends by The Woodlands Area Quilt Guild Wanna Bees from Texas.

Foxy Friends by The Woodlands Area Quilt Guild Wanna Bees from Texas.

Nautilina by Kathy Yeldezian from Texas.

Nautilina by Kathy Yeldezian from Texas.

Please Dont Eat The Daisies by the Traditions Quilt Group from Pennsylvania.

Please Dont Eat The Daisies by the Traditions Quilt Group from Pennsylvania.

New Jersey – Stronger Than the Storm by Arlene Beck and the Mouse Creek Appliquers from New Jersey.

New Jersey – Stronger Than the Storm by Arlene Beck and the Mouse Creek Appliquers from New Jersey.

 Seaside Village by the Houston Modern Quilt Guild from Texas.


Seaside Village by the Houston Modern Quilt Guild from Texas.

On Cloud Nine by Ann Flournoy and Corey Tedt from Illinois

On Cloud Nine by Ann Flournoy and Corey Tedt from Illinois

O Henri by Paula Doyle from the United Kingdom.

O Henri by Paula Doyle from the United Kingdom.

Sounds of Laughter by Venetta Morger from Texas.

Sounds of Laughter by Venetta Morger from Texas.

Ovarian-Cancer-Quilt-Project-Tasty by Madelyn Bell from Texas.

Tasty by Madelyn Bell from Texas.


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