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Quilting group helps comfort cancer patients

BY HAWKINS TEAGUE news@mayfield-messenger.com

A Graves County quilting group recently assisted Lourdes hospital in a program to comfort patients with breast cancer.

The Beads of Courage program is intended for not only breast cancer patients, but children and adults with all types of cancer. Graves County Piecemakers has committed to making at least 200 bags and already delivered about 135 of them to Lourdes a couple of weeks ago.

Piecemaker member Roxanne Ferguson said her daughter, Lourdes major gift officer Jessica Toren, asked the Graves County group to get involved when the hospital had a shortage of bags. Ferguson said Lourdes RN nurse navigators Amy Manley and Courtney Leneave work with breast cancer patients and give them bags from Beads of Courage that contain bead necklaces and hand-written notes of encouragement.

"They walk the (breast cancer patients) through the project of the journey of cancer treatment, and they give them beads along the way to encourage them and have a way of opening up and speaking about what they are going through," Ferguson said. "What we've done is make the bags for them to hold all their beads. (Manley and Leneave) asked us to make bright, cheerful, colored gold ones with satiny linings and ribbons to tie them."

Manley said the Beads of Courage program was started by a nurse in Arizona who wanted to give something to children being treated for cancer. Manley said Leneave heard about the program - which had since spread around the world - and brought it to the Paducah hospital a few years ago. Since there was no adult program in place at the time, the national Beads of Courage created an adult program for Lourdes in 2011 for women being treated for breast cancer, Manley said. The adult program was launched in October of that year.

"It is free for every patient in treatment, and we are the first adult program in the continental United States," Manley said. "This is a worldwide program for children, so I think they've branched out a little bit in some of the other countries with adults now. But we were the first."

Manley said several organizations had helped donate bags, but the hospital was down to about five bags last month before the Graves County Piecemakers came to the rescue.

"(The Piecemakers) made a very generous contribution that is going to help us for all of 2016," Manley said. "Hopefully, it will cover all of our women. We have on average just over 100 new diagnoses a year in this area for breast cancer."

Piecemakers member Fran McEachern said she has been a breast cancer survivor for 30 years, so she is always interested in doing anything to promote awareness or help patients. Another member, Mary Helen Boyd, said breast cancer patients are "near and dear to (their) hearts."

Ferguson said the Piecemakers make a point to work on a charity project every year. In the past, they have made baby quilts to Ronald McDonald House and teddy bears for first responders to give to children, among other projects, she said.

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