For the most part, I as a creator and designer have remained quiet about issues within my personal life. Yes, I am keen to carefully curate and share my optimistic personality with what I hope is quick wit and finely tailored crafts in a 1 by 1 square on Instagram, but my followers rarely see my reality after I set down my hook or needles. Ever the designer, this too is purposeful. I have historically been one to shy away from probing questions or innocent remarks. I like everything in my life to fit into its designated space. Bleed-through from one to the next makes me anxious. At this point in time, however, I feel it is more beneficial to shed light and insight into my new normal.
My life up to this point has thankfully not been touched by much illness or death within my family or friend group. Within the last six months, however, three people that I hold near to me have been diagnosed with separate forms of stage four cancer, and we experienced an unexpected death in the family. Those are not my stories to tell, and I won’t get into the minutia of their prognoses or circumstances, but what I will speak on is how I am navigating it.
I won’t easily forget the day that my friend Michael shared his concerns with me over an unusual spot on his leg. My father had finished treatments for Melanoma only weeks earlier, and the signs were not lost on me. I, along with others, urged him to see a specialist. By the end of the month, his life had forever changed, and my perspective shifted.
I’ve talked about my grandmother (Abuela) many times over all my platforms, and will indeed talk about her for the rest of my days. It’s hard to describe the impact she has had on me. I’m the Mijo she’s always going on about. And just between us, when no one else is listening she lets me know I’m her favorite, too. Hearing of her illness has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. After the news, I packed a suitcase and headed eight hours west to my hometown of Odessa to spend some much needed time with her. I was fortunate enough to spend a little over a month with her through June and July, and for that, I will be ever thankful to the universe.
While in Odessa, towards the middle of my stay, I got a call from my mother (my Abuela’s daughter) that my father had a bump on his head he was having tested. My stomach dropped and the hard time I was having navigating Odessa was compounded by yet another stormcloud. Not much later his test came back and the spread of his cancer was confirmed.
Torn is the only word that can completely encompass my feelings at the time. I now was balanced between three delicate and threatening situations, and unable to help all at once. I am by nature an extremely empathic person, and the toll taken on me was monumental. I had to push through, however, because I am and have always been the healer of my family and friends. I needed to keep that up at all costs.
When I arrived back home, I was soon off to STITCHES Midwest in Chicago while my father had surgery to remove the tumor on his head. Overnight trips to M D Anderson in Houston with my father started immediately upon my return that Monday. And I say that with no exaggeration. I woke up in the early hours of the morning in Chicago, flew to a layover in New Orleans, flew back to Dallas, drove two and a half hours home to pick up my father, then three hours to Houston. I was quite literally all over the map that day.
When we arrived to the hospital, I had left my fibercrafts in my overnight bag and was stuck with only my phone. We sat in anticipation for his first appointment, and I got a twinkle in my eye when I spotted a woman crocheting small hexagonal flower motifs for a growing afghan in her lap. In a time of such discomfort, watching her working away gave me a much-needed sense of ease.
My father’s father and brother also live near Houston. After returning from another M D Anderson trip a few weeks ago we received the heartbreaking news that my uncle’s fiancée Michelle passed away unexpectedly during the night. The news was another spike to the heart, as she was so incredibly sweet and far too young. I will forever cherish my favorite memory with her; us crocheting together. Michelle decided to learn, and I was so excited to teach her. I drove four hours to their house for a weekend getaway with a huge box full of yarn. I spent hours showing her how to chain, then single crochet, and help her work up her very first granny square. I doubt if she ever picked up a crochet hook again, as my uncle told me as much, which makes me crack a grin.
After hearing the news of her passing, my family and I traveled back to Houston and I was able to give my Uncle some much-needed solace. In the moments where he was talking to others or taking calls, I knit in the same spot Michelle and I had worked on our projects almost a year ago now. The act of making soothed the hurt I felt as well.
Now I make a habit of bringing whatever project I am working on to whoever’s care I'm in attendance for. In fact, I’m Sitting at M D Anderson Cancer Center with a beanie on my needles as I write. It has made a world of difference to my attitude and demeanor. I usually see at least one other person crocheting on each trip. There has only been one knitter, but I’m always on the lookout. Creating, whether sewing, knitting, or crocheting, has always been meditative, if not spiritual for me. It is for that reason that when the stress seems too much, or I feel the need to sink further into my situational depression, fiber arts helps to pull me out and center me. It has truly become a guiding factor in my life.
The only way out is through. One of my favorite songs, which coincidentally is about the effects of cancer, put it the best. “Things change fast, and this too shall pass.” At this moment in time, along the bright red string of my life, it indeed feels frayed. It feels as though at any moment the tightrope I'm walking across may snap, that the yarn will unravel and fall to a tangled pile on the floor. But it is temporary, I know that one day these problems will be gone and that there is so much light and love in store. Time and again the one thing to call that to mind for me is fiber arts. And if you find yourself in a situation like mine, I hope above all hopes that you find that one thing to make you feel the bright light of the future as well.