How Knitting Helped Me Stitch My Life Back Together

For pretty much my entire childhood, my grandmother would try to teach me how to knit. I thought knitting sucked and hated it. I remember spending hours upon hours in her basement, frustrated to be kept indoors with a stupid pair of needles and balls of yarn while the boys were outside playing. When I finally got old enough to assert my independence, I never looked back and considered my knitting days gone for good.

Fast forward 20 (cough..cough…or so?) years and my 22 month old son was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma. My world was flipped upside down. As I stumbled through life trying desperately to grab anything that felt “normal,” I somehow circled back to the old needle and yarn I thought I hated so much. First, I brought it with me to the hospital. Then I started knitting as my son slept off the chemo.

To be fair, my skills with two needles were severely lacking after years of neglect; I had trouble keeping the proper tension as my life would shift from high to low in a heartbeat. The hours ticked by as my needles clicked together. That sound still reminds me of my grandmother. My grandmother suffered from dementia so I never got to learn from her how to cast off, which has led to the never ending scarf. It is as shapely as a curvy lady with a magnificent hourglass figure and it's about 12 feet long. Not very desired in the fiber arts, but it’s my chemo scarf and it’s hideous and I wouldn’t change it for the world. My stress is knotted in those stitches.

Fast forward two years: my son was cancer free and recovering wonderfully! I, as a Cancer Mama, was not. I suffered from depression, PTSD and survivor's guilt. I was trying very hard at keeping afloat but having serious trouble with sleep and “thinking” about things. I would lie awake at night haunted by what I had seen, the other cancer kids we had lost, and how I could possibly be happy when other kids are suffering.

One day I woke up and thought to myself: I’m wasting my time. If I’m going to be awake I might as well be DOING something! Right then, I ordered myself a set of cheap crochet hooks and some (horrid) yarn online, determined to teach myself how to crochet. I figured I could stay up all night crocheting chemo hats for the kids at the clinic. Then, at least my suffering would be of use.

A year later, I am a full-blown crochet addict -- and proud of it! My stress is pretty much nonexistent now that I know my hook and yarn will be there for me. Feeling anxious at the doctor’s office? Whip out the good ol’ yarn bag. Stressed out by scanxiety while travelling to your hospital? Crochet a granny square style blanket to keep a chemo patient warm in those chemo chairs! My husband calls it "road trip crochet" (Not while you are driving of course-- yikes!).

I started a crochet group in my hometown where people from all walks of life gather to gab and learn. People young and old ask me what I’m doing, what I’m making -- I make friends wherever I go! It opens up the line of communication and brings awareness to childhood cancer. When I hand over a blanket, I am able to give someone something that I made with my own hands and with love. It’s like giving someone a homemade hug they can take home!

But the most important lesson of all? Learning that you have the power to change your life. You really, seriously do. Yes, I know crochet sounds ridiculous. But find your hobby, find your love -- painting, dancing, sewing, pottery, tattooing or gardening, whatever makes your heart sing! -- and make some friends along the way.

This post is dedicated to Emily's grandmother, who passed away at the ripe age of 98 this past March 20th. Interested in taking up knitting or crocheting to help channel your creative energies after cancer? Check out a beginners knitting kit or Easy to Use Crochet Kit . Send us photos of what you create!