Northwest Cancer Clinic patients get gifts made by former patients

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldDecember 23, 2013 

Northwest Cancer Center gifts

Norma Downing of Richland picks out a bracelet with her husband Richard during a visit to the Northwest Cancer Clinic in Kennewick. The Downings, both patients at the clinic, and other cancer patients have received gifts of jewelry, wooden ornaments and knitted hats and baby sets made by former patients.

PAUL T. ERICKSON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Dozens of handmade gifts, from beaded jewelry to knit hats and wooden ornaments, sat Monday on a table by the radiation treatment room at Northwest Cancer Clinic in Kennewick.

They were made by former patients as a way to brighten the day of current ones going through treatment during the Christmas season.

"It blows me away," Dr. Sheila Rege said of the pay-it-forward tradition that has grown since it started last year.

Dealing with illness during the holidays can be particularly hard, but acts of thoughtfulness and support can help ease the load and are in keeping with the season's true meaning, said Rege, the clinic medical director.

Patients on Monday perused the handmade gifts near the treatment room.

Norma Downing, 75, of Richland, picked up a bracelet. She has finished her treatment for uterine cancer but was back at the clinic with her husband, Richard, also 75, who's undergoing radiation for his own cancer.

The Downings seemed to be keeping positive, despite a difficult year. And they seemed to appreciate the Christmas gesture from others who've walked in their shoes.

George Gannon, 75, of Kennewick, planned to pick out a piece of jewelry for his wife. He said the fact that the past patients took time to fashion gifts by hand make the items particularly special.

"I think it's really, really a generous situation," he said. "Anytime you make something -- what a gift that is."

The handmade items aren't the only gifts going home with patients.

The clinic also gives its own patient presents -- this year it's bags filled with goodies from ornaments to pocket calendars. Rege joked those clinic gifts might have helped inspire the past patients to provide their own Christmas offerings, because "we're not quite as talented" as the artisans who make the beaded jewelry, the wooden ornaments, the knitted goods.

"You are very talented," Norma Downing assured her, "just in a different field."

The former patient who made the jewelry said her cancer experience prompted her gesture of giving.

Mary Calanche of Dayton sought help at the clinic for uterine cancer, but only needed treatment for a short time and now is cancer free.

"Not that many people have that easy a road to hoe. I am extremely grateful that God saw fit not to challenge me more than that. These people that go through it time and time again -- they just amaze me," the 63-year-old said. "That's why I (gave the jewelry) -- to make other people happy. Lift their spirits. They can say, 'This is a good day, I got this gift.' "

w Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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