Cancer patient crochets colourful caps
Patsy Bishop knits and crochets her way through health struggles
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.
“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.
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.”
Cancer patient Patsy Bishop from Cavendish has knitted hundreds of caps for premature babies at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s.