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conflict, and underachievement.

Cynthia Perlis, director of Art for Recovery, remembered the touching stories and drawings that women with breast cancer had shared with her. It was time to give these women a voice in the larger community, to let them speak through their creative spirits and to share their pain, their hopes, and their dreams along with their families’ and friends’ visions and wishes. Women recovering from and coping with breast cancer would be able to express visually their feelings about this illness. The Breast Cancer Quilts Project became a project of Art for Recovery through quilt workshops and meetings with women at their bedsides.

These squares began to represent the entire scope of this devastating illness. One square read: “I WON THE LOTTERY NO ONE CARED TO ENTER.” On another piece of fabric, written in ballpoint pen, was the entire story of one woman’s breast cancer experience. Another woman embroidered “THE GIFT OF A LIFETIME” and dedicated the square to her doctor. The quilt makers then sewed the squares into a beautiful quilt.

One year later, there were five quilts, each measuring eight feet by eight feet, and each including images by twenty-five women with breast cancer or in memory of a loved one. Now, in the year 2005, there are fifty quilts, and the number is growing by five quilts a year. The quilts have been on display across the country. One of the most poignant parts of this project are the stories that women have written about their own squares that tell the painful reality of breast cancer. Here is one example:

I wanted to make this square as a thank you to my three daughters who have been so loving and supportive these past ten months. The design idea came from a beautiful Christmas tree ornament given to me by my second daughter. I was extremely touched by this gift and displayed it prominently on our tree.

I didn’t really understand why it made such an impact on me and I’m not sure I know the answer yet. However, I suspect one of the reasons was that it was possible to have something beautiful represent a difficult and challenging time in my life. It also served as a daily reminder to be ever vigilant and to never forget. I wear a pink ribbon of some kind every day now to continue to remind myself, my daughters, and the world that the ENEMY is still out there ready to strike 180,000 more women this year alone.