By Mary Wade Burnside
Times West Virginian
Martha Offutt is a breast cancer survivor and a needle artist, so when she was asked to embroider flowers on pieces of cloth featuring the names of others who had gone through the same ordeal, she took special care in her work.
“Because of having had cancer, I could empathize with all those names I was embroidering flowers for,” said Offutt, who lived in Fairmont until moving to Martinsburg to be closer to family a few years ago.
“And as I embroidered their flower, I looked at that person’s name — a lot of the people I knew — and for everyone I had a prayer and positive thoughts about their survival as I was working.”
Offutt included her name on one panel and stitched an elaborate trio of pink roses next to it. She was diagnosed in 2000, the year before the first panel was made, and her treatment included a lumpectomy and radiation.
The women had written their names on pieces of cloth starting back in 2001 during an annual Fairmont General Hospital event, now called Women’s Health Awareness Day, which will be held from 4-8 p.m. Friday in the Hamilton Conference Room as well as other parts of the hospital.
Then, said Tricia Julian, the hospital’s program coordinator of oncology events, she gave the first three years’ worth of panels to Offutt to do the embroidery. Now that she has moved away, she plans to find someone else to embroider flowers for the rest of the panels. Then they will be pieced together to make quilts.
Women will have the opportunity to write their names on a panel for 2013 at the event, as well as participate in health screenings including blood pressure, body fat index and bone density screenings.
They also can learn about mammograms and see if they qualify for any programs that could help them, such as Bonnie’s Bus through the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, and the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program (WVBCCSP).
And they also will be able to peruse the hospital, seeing the dedication of the new digital mammography machine installed this summer after a year and a half campaign to raise $500,000.
They also will be able to see the presentation of two pink quilts from Warriors in Pink, the Ford Motor Co.’s effort to raise awareness and fight breast cancer.
A company representative called Julian and asked if Fairmont General would want to be the recipient of two quilts made through the Warriors in Pink effort.
“I replied that we really would be interested in that,” Julian said. “We’ve been corresponding back and forth and they gave us the choice of one large one or two smaller ones.”
Julian chose two smaller ones, thinking they would be easier to display.
The two that she got are not the exact same size. The panels, all made by people participating in Susan G. Komen Foundation events in the Pittsburgh area, are about 4 1/2 inches each. One has 49 panels and the other 54.
Most of the panels are pink but others are not, including one with a Pittsburgh Steelers background featuring a pink ribbon and a stark black square. Some squares feature personal messages or advice, ranging from “Grama Bert Always in Our Heart” to “Early Detection Saves Lives.”
“There is one that says ‘Men, Too,’ so that person wanted us to think about the fact that men get breast cancer, too,” Julian said.
One panel has the word “Love” spelled out in buttons; another one states “Fight Like a Girl.”
Both quilts are bordered by pink fabric. They officially will be presented on Friday to the hospital by Kyle Hamilton, the president of the Wilson Ford dealership in Fairmont.
“Normally in the springtime, when they hold the Race for the Cure, typically what they do is ask participants to bring in a swatch of cloth or a T-shirt that has special meaning to them that can be used to make a quilt, and that’s where they get the patchwork stuff to make quilts, from race participants,” Hamilton said.
The Ford Motor Co. has been active in the fight against breast cancer for 20 years, according to information on its Warriors in Pink website, www.warriorsinpink.ford.com. Warriors in Pink specifically was founded in 2006. Since then, according to Hamilton, $120 million has been raised by Ford dealers, mainly through the Susan G. Komen Foundation, for breast cancer research and resources.
“We’ve been doing the quilt program for a number of years,” he added. “It’s a good program and we’re proud to be associated with it.”
Email Mary Wade Burnside at firstname.lastname@example.org.