UBC Reports
October 31, 1996

Mother's quilt becomes cloth canvas for cancer

by Stephen Forgacs
Staff writer

A quilt undertaken by UBC School of Nursing alumna Judy Reimer as a gift for her children has taken on a greater meaning.

Reimer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990, and in 1993, when she discovered the cancer had spread, began quilting.

"I felt that I wanted to leave something of beauty behind for my kids," Reimer says.

By 1995 her quilting had evolved into a public awareness project called the Life Quilt for Breast Cancer Project.

Three quilts with large centre panels surrounded by 130 smaller quilted squares make up the project. Contributed by breast cancer survivors, their friends and families, the squares express their thoughts and experiences with the disease.

"The quilts are a metaphor for community and for people working together," Reimer says. "What we're looking for is people across Canada who have in some way been touched by breast cancer to share their stories with us."

One quilt was displayed recently at the Diane Farris Gallery in Vancouver in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Reimer says the foundation of the project is to examine the practical support for women with breast cancer that currently exists, identify gaps and then work toward filling those gaps.

The National Cancer Institute of Canada estimates that in 1996, 18,600 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed and 5,300 women will die from it. In 1996 in British Columbia alone, 2,800 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and it will claim about 600 lives.

The painted scenes on the quilts' centre panels, hand painted by Coquitlam artist Gay Mitchell, represent different stages or ideas associated with breast cancer. The first panel, Cut in Prime, is an impressionistic portrait of clear-cut forest, representing destruction. The second panel, Call to Rebirth, depicts the once clear-cut forest covered by new vegetation, while the third panel, Green Canopy, depicts the new forest canopy and expresses regrowth, integration and healing.

Anyone interested in becoming involved with the Life Quilt as a volunteer, supporter or contributing quilter can contact the Life Quilt for Breast Cancer Project care of the Vancouver Women's Health Collective, 219-1675 W. 8th Ave, Vancouver, V6J 1V2, or telephone (604) 736-4234. A quilting kit with instructions, backing and batting is available from the project to ensure uniformity.