Quilt researcher receives her own comfort quilt.

East Lansing; Michigan; United States


Marsha MacDowell at the Breslin Cancer Center, Lansing, Michigan, after just being presented with a quilt made by Bobbie Slider, May 9, 2012.
Photograph taken with author’s IPhone by attending nurse.

In January 2012, the topic of quilts and health took an unexpected personal turn. A regular mammogram detected some abnormalities and I was scheduled for a biopsy. I walked into the waiting room of the Breast Center of Lansing (Michigan) clinic where a quilted wall hanging of a set of six bras was the only adornment of an otherwise bleak area. I tested positive for breast cancer and subsequently had a lumpectomy followed by six weeks of radiation and two doses of chemotherapy. In one of the hallways of the Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, where I had my surgery, hung a quilt; each block of the quilt depicted one facet of volunteer hospital work – from the wheelchair escorts to the medical librarians to the Tender Loving Care (TLC) group in support of family members in the Critical Care Visitor Lounge. At the clinic where I underwent daily radiation treatments, on at least two occasions the clinic office counter displayed baskets of quilted items as gifts for patients. But it was at my first treatment of chemotherapy that the emotional and physical comfort of quilts to those who were coping with illness came most powerfully into my life. In the austere and rather chilly room, I was surrounded by other patients, some of whom had lost their hair and most had companions with them. Alone, I was hooked to the intravenous chemo drip and almost immediately the head nurse appeared before me with two large shopping bags and said to me “you are a new patient, you can choose which of these you would like.” Imagine my surprise, joy, and happiness in seeing that she was offering me one of two quilts. Throughout my diagnosis and surgery I had not cried but at that point the floodgates of tears let loose and I said to her “do you know what my research is?” She snapped a picture for me and then I read the letter accompanying the quilt. It was from Bobbie Slider of Lansing, Michigan, who had been quietly making quilts for new patients of the Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center after accompanying a friend to the center and experiencing firsthand the sterile and chilly environment. I quickly contacted her and found that, as of 2012, Bobbie had already made and donated over 400 quilts just for this purpose. She had also made many more quilts for other charitable causes, including several that are health-related.

Written by MacDowell, Marsha;Luz, Clare;Donaldson, Beth (2017)

MacDowell, Marsha; Luz, Clare; Donaldson, Beth. Quilts and Health. University of Indiana Press, 2017. Page xii.

Quilts and Health

  • Quilts and Health

    Documentation Project

    Michigan State University

  • MacDowell, Marsha

    Author; Interviewer; Owner; Quiltmaker

    Michigan State University Museum

Load More