“How do you tell your mother you have breast cancer?”
That was the question Donna O’Brien of Hays wrestled with in 2005, just a year and a half after her sister had died of cancer.
Judy Stegman, also of Hays, dealt with the same dilemma when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, just one month after her mother had been diagnosed with cancer.
“They gave me six months to live,” Stegman said. “I’m now nine years out.”
Both women are members of Your Voice Through Cancer, a support group for cancer patients and survivors in Ellis County. The group will hold its fifth annual Craft Boutique from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Hays Middle School, 201 W. 29th.
There is no admission fee to the event, which will feature 44 vendors. All but one of them will sell handmade crafts or homemade food items.
The one exception is Operation Christmas Child, an effort by the cancer group to reach out to other charities in the community this year, Stegman said.
OCC is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization.
Individuals each year fill shoeboxes with toys, personal hygiene items and school supplies, and those boxes are then distributed to needy children around the world.
OCC will have free empty shoeboxes available at the crafts event, along with a place where people can drop off items for shoeboxes if they don’t wish to pack their own. Attendees can go to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ/ to find a list of suggested items to donate.
About half of the vendors at this year’s crafts fair are new, Stegman said.
Vendors get to keep all of the monies collected at their booths, and many of those individuals are designating their proceeds to go to their favorite charities, she added.
The cancer support group will get all the monies from booth rental fees, plus the money raised through raffles. Twenty items donated by various vendors will be raffled off throughout the day.
One of those raffle items will be a necklace of agate and amethyst whose stones were selected by the late Mary Braden, who co-founded the group along with Stegman. Braden never got a chance to finish the necklace; she died last February.
Braden’s family donated the stones that form the necklace and also donated a number of items that Braden had made for the crafts fair before her death, Stegman said. Those items include table runners, wall hangings, potholders, dishtowels, and crocheted items.
Among the other items to be sold at the fair will be furniture, quilts, wind chimes, paintings, stained glass, home décor items, wreaths, jewelry, purses, baby clothes, doll clothes, plants, and pet items.
O’Brien has made several items specifically for cancer patients, including rice bags that can be heated in a microwave or frozen to form hot or cold packs, washable facemasks, scarves, night caps for patients who have lost their hair, and seat belt pads for people who have had a port or pacemaker installed.
Two vendors, My Masterpiece and Chromo Quilting’s Create It Studio, both located in Hays, will be offering classes on painting and weaving, respectively, throughout the day.
The cost of each class is $20, which includes all materials. Each class will have a limited class size. Individuals can check out class times and pre-register for them by following the link on the Your Voice Through Cancer Craft Boutique Facebook page.
Lunch will be available for purchase in the middle school cafeteria, and free childcare will be provided. Goodwill offerings will be accepted.
Stegman said she and Braden started the group in 2013 because “there was no support group in this town for people who had other types of cancer other than breast cancer.” The group includes both male and female patients, their families and “others who have been affected by cancer.”
The purpose of the group is to help patients and their families and friends by providing someone to listen, offering breaks for caregivers, giving rides to the doctor or to chemotherapy treatments, and, in cases of need, helping with prescriptions, according to the group’s brochure.
O’Brien underwent a second battle with cancer in 2011 when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She emphasized, “Your survivorship begins the day you are diagnosed,” not the day you are declared cancer-free.
She has counseled patients and their families and has spent the night with female cancer patients when needed. Although the group’s primary focus is Ellis County, “we work with families throughout the United States,” she said.
The group also has an “Angel Project.” Members provide boxes filled with 15 to 20 angels to anyone who wants one. Many go to cancer patients. “One man said he received his (in the mail) the day he started chemo,” O’Brien said.
The group meets from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month at Breathe Coffee House, 700 Main. For those experiencing stage 4 cancer, meetings are held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of every month at First Presbyterian Church, 2900 Hall St. The church also donates space for the group to work and make items for the craft fair.
Stegman said the most important part of the group’s work, to her, is its focus on helping others.
“Many people ask, ‘Why me? Why did I get cancer?’ You may never find that answer. But maybe that reason is to help the next person who comes along.”
More information about the group is available at (785) 639-3690.