Ovarian Cancer Survivor, Marcia Reimers, Finds Healing Through Hand-Knit Gratitude

August 5, 2014 Montana Cancer Center at Providence St Patrick Hospital

Marcia Reimers wasn’t eating right. Her appetite was gone, yet her stomach felt bloated and heavy. “It was like I was carrying a bowling ball in my pelvic area,” Marcia said. She soon started feeling dizzy and the bloating became worse. Something was wrong.

On July 11, 2011, Marcia was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Within 10 days – on her 48th birthday – she was in surgery. A month later, she started chemotherapy at Montana Cancer Center at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana. And, by the new year, she received the news from her oncologist that she was cancer-free.

Showing Gratitude

“Everything happened so quickly,” said Marcia who documented her treatment in journals and pictures to help prompt the memories of her journey. “It’s nice to look back now and remember how far I’ve come.”

Marcia has clear memories of the quality support she received from the cancer center. “The staff is fabulous. The nurses are the cheerleaders,” said Marcia. “Their positive attitude got me to the finish line.”

It was the kind of care and support Marcia wanted to share with others after completing treatment. But she struggled with how to reciprocate and demonstrate her gratitude.

“I received a lot of encouraging cards during my treatment. They made my day. But, because of privacy policies, sending personalized cards to other patients isn’t practical.”

That’s when the idea of donating hats first crossed her mind.

Wearing a hat was comforting for Marcia when she starting losing her hair during chemotherapy treatment. In a practical sense, it provided warmth. But, for Marcia, keeping her head covered meant something more.

“In a way, I was able to ignore my cancer. But, when I lost my hair, it finally dawned on me that I was sick. It worried me that people would see my bald head and just see the sick me,” said Marcia. “Wearing a hat just helped me feel better.”

She was grateful when some close friends gifted her with hand-knit hats to wear during treatment. A knitting novice herself, Marcia decided to do something similar. First, she needed to learn how to knit hats. And she knew just who to ask.

A Group Effort

Marcia spends her winters in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she belongs to a knitting group. She told her fellow knitters of her idea to donate hats to patients at the cancer center. “They were touched,” said Marcia, “and connected with my story.”

Instead of simply showing Marcia how to knit a hat, they joined her and quickly adopted the project as their own.

The budding project became infectious. It soon inspired a Berroco Yarn to donate all the yarn needed to complete the hats. It was a welcomed surprise.

“We went into the store to price out the cost of yarn, and walked away instead with something completely unexpected.”

This past June – just as the warm spring weather rolled into Montana – Marcia delivered 53 hand-knit hats to the Montana Cancer Center from a group of women thousands of miles away.

Weaving it All Together

Gifting hats to other cancer patients is just one way Marcia hopes to support others diagnosed with cancer. “I want to share my experience so I can help save another life,” said Marcia, who invites an open conversation about her symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Marcia found support herself from a fellow cancer patient who had a similar diagnosis. She was an invaluable resource.

“I call her my OC sister – OC for ovarian cancer,” said Marcia. “The personal experiences she shared made it so much easier to understand what to expect. This helped make things a little less scary. I hope I can to do the same for someone else who is going through what I did.”

For Marcia, sharing her experiences and giving back to the center is all part of the healing process.

“I’m a survivor. Now I want to be there for the next person.” If that means simply providing someone with a little knitted comfort, that’s enough.

“I just know in my heart that someone is wearing one of our hats and finding some comfort and ease. Hopefully it helps put a smile on their face,” said Marcia. “And if I played even a small role in that smile, that makes me feel good every day.”

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