Can­cer pa­tient cro­chets colour­ful caps

Patsy Bishop knits and cro­chets her way through health strug­gles

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

The past seven months have been a strug­gle for Patsy Bishop of Cavendish, but you’d never say it by the smile on her face.

Since Jan­uary, Patsy has been fight­ing stom­ach can­cer, but con­tin­ues to do­nate home­made knit­ted and cro­cheted items, a skill she has mas­tered over the years, to those in need.

A very pos­i­tive woman, Patsy has ded­i­cated much of her time over the past decade to giv­ing back to so­ci­ety. For the past three years she has been mak­ing caps for pre­ma­ture ba­bies at the Janeway Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in St. John’s, as well as items for other or­ga­ni­za­tions.

On Wed­nes­day, July 30, Patsy in­vited The Com­pass to sit and chat in her of­fice, a cam­per she and her hus­band of al­most 50 years own, at their camp­ground busi­ness in Cavendish. It is where she has been spend­ing quite a bit of time lately, and where she has spent a lot of time in the past.

The cam­per door is un­locked and she sees every­one ap­proach­ing from a large win­dow.

Strug­gles

“Come on in,” she calls out with­out even know­ing the person on the other side. She is ex­pect­ing this vis­i­tor. “Now, I don’t re­ally like recog­ni­tion,” she tells The Com­pass reporter who greets her. “That’s not why I do these things.” Patsy’s mod­esty is gen­uine. Just in­side the door lies an oxy­gen ma­chine. From it, a long tube runs sev­eral me­tres and sits se­curely around Patsy’s ears. She has been in­formed she needs to stay on the oxy­gen for the next lit­tle while.

The three dark green knit­ting nee­dles in her hands are wrapped in mint green wool. She weaves them quickly and ef­fort­lessly, work­ing on another cap for a pre­emie. A lime green cro­cheted cap sits next to her on the ta­ble, not quite fin­ished.

Patsy looks up, still knit­ting, and asks, “So what would you like to know?”

When Patsy and her hus­band Max de­cided in Jan­uary it would be a good time to take a trip to Florida, a win­ter home for many re­tirees in New­found­land, they had no idea the trip would turn out to be much less than par­adise.

It was three days af­ter their ar­rival when Patsy started feel­ing se­vere pains in her stom­ach, and sought help at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal.

“In an hour-and-a-half I was di­ag­nosed with stom­ach can­cer,” Patsy ex­plains.

But speak­ing the words “stom­ach can­cer” didn’t ap­pear to faze her. “I have never asked, ‘why me?’” she says. Patsy’s glass is half full. In fact, some would say it is over­flow­ing, since she in­sists noth­ing, not even can­cer, will get her down.

When the doc­tor in Florida re­ferred to the tu­mour as “mas­sive,” her re­sponse was mostly curiosity.

“He told me that (doc­tors) don’t use the word mas­sive un­less the tu­mour is big­ger than a fist,” she re­calls as she picks up the lime green cap.

She was flown back to New­found­land for surgery to re­move the large mass, and be­gin chemo­ther­apy. Ev­ery two weeks, de­pend­ing on her phys­i­cal state, Patsy goes back to the can­cer clinic in St. John’s for treat­ment.

But it has been sev­eral weeks since Patsy’s last treat­ment due to a health com­pli­ca­tion.

The week prior, Patsy spent sev­eral days in a St. John’s hos­pi­tal in the in­ten­sive care unit (ICU) be­cause she con­tracted pneu­mo­nia.

“She went through hell and back,” hus­band Max ex­plains.

It was a dif­fi­cult few days of in­tense an­tibi­otics, but she was able to fin­ish the last cou­ple days of her med­i­ca­tion at home. She was also able to con­tinue mak­ing caps for the Janeway.

Cro­chet caps

About a decade ago, Patsy be­gan mak­ing and do­nat­ing prayer shawls for Car­bon­ear Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal. Af­ter a few years, she be­gan mak­ing and do­nat­ing quilts and Afghans. She still makes Afghans for Iris Kirby House in St. John’s.

It was about three years ago when Patsy made her first drop of knit­ted and cro­cheted caps to the Janeway. Then a while later, another drop, 50 at a time. She even knits dur­ing her chemo treat­ments. A large re­us­able shop­ping bag sat on the cam­per floor near the door, over­flow­ing with colour­ful wool. It’s more pre­emie caps.

There are more than 100 ready to be de­liv­ered to the Janeway, and not all the same style. Some are cro­cheted, while oth­ers are knit. Some are touque style and oth­ers re­sem­ble bean­ies. But they are all pe­tite, just the right size for a pre­ma­ture baby’s head.

Four bright coloured Afghan shawls are also nearby. They will be do­nated soon as well.

But how does Patsy keep go­ing, mak­ing and do­nat­ing more caps? “I just love do­ing it,” she says. Her mother used to joke that she was knit- ting be­fore she could walk. But that wasn’t far from the truth.

“Grow­ing up, I used to make cloth­ing for the fam­ily,” Patsy ex­plains.

She has kept a pas­sion for knit­ting and cro­chet­ing, some­thing that takes strong hands and a lot of hard work. Although, watch­ing Patsy, one may be­lieve it is an easy skill to learn.

She fin­ishes off the lime green cap with a white cro­cheted flower. “There, another one fin­ished,” she elates. Patsy be­gan mak­ing the caps be­fore she got sick, and will con­tinue them for as long as she is around, which she hopes is go­ing to be a long time.

She looks up, and with a smile on her face and a twin­kle in her sky blue eyes, she ex­plains, “I’m never giv­ing up.”

Photo by Melissa Jenk­in­sThe Com­pass

Can­cer pa­tient Patsy Bishop from Cavendish has knit­ted hun­dreds of caps for pre­ma­ture ba­bies at the Janeway Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in St. John’s.

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