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South Fayette art students work on kindness project for cancer patients

Patients at the UPMC-Hillman Cancer Center will have a brighter Valentine’s Day, thanks to youngsters in South Fayette Township.

Students at Priya Arts have created heart-shaped messages of kindness to be made into an 8-by-8-foot banner for presentation to the facility in Shadyside.

“When I proposed the idea to the cancer center director and the organization, they were super excited that we are doing this, and they right away said they want to display it permanently,” studio owner Selva Priya said. “They have been practicing for a month to make their hearts today. I told them our theme was going to be kindness, so they came up with unique ideas.”

Examples include such creative notions as a girl sheltering a frog with an umbrella, youngsters offering treats to their pets and Mother Teresa ministering to children.

Contributing to the projects are 35 students ages 5 to 14. Many of them will accompany Priya when she delivers the banner to the center Thursday.

She also is presenting one of her own paintings, which she calls “The Henna Crown,” depicting a woman with tattoos covering her bowed head as a symbol of the hair loss that many cancer patients must face.

“I thought I should give them something that represents beauty and courage,” she said.

As is the case with practically everyone, she has friends who have battled cancer, including one whose treatment did result in her losing her hair.

“I was with her throughout her journey,” Priya said. “She had to take chemotherapy for six months, and every day, she used to send me her picture.”

The kindness project is part of her efforts to reach out into the community. In December, her students made special creations for holidays, including Christmas cards for senior citizens, and she has plans for similar efforts as the year progresses.

In the meantime, she wants to do what she can for cancer patients.

“We can’t do anything about the disease or the intensity, but we can help them recover, be with them and support them,” she said. “If these kids’ artwork makes at least one patient smile, we all are winners.”

A warning about blood clots

Q. Last year, I lost my dad. He had stage IV cancer, but that’s not what killed him. In fact, after his first few months of chemotherapy, a scan showed that the cancer was mostly gone. Then, a few weeks later, he died suddenly in his sleep. We declined to do an autopsy, but from talking to doctors it seems that there’s a good chance it was a blood clot.

I have since learned that there is a strong association between cancer and blood clots, and I felt compelled to write here and share some information.

Both chemotherapy and cancer increase the risk of blood clots. The CDC reports that blood clots are the second-leading cause of death among people with cancer. According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, blood clots affect 900,000 people every year in the U.S., and 1 in 5 blood clots are related to cancer and cancer treatment. NBCA notes that the risk of a dangerous blood clot “is greatest in the first few months after a cancer diagnosis.” The more advanced a cancer is, the higher the risk of blood clots. Other risk factors include personal or family history of blood clots, hospitalization, bone fractures, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, smoking and traveling for more than four hours.

Symptoms of a blood clot include:

  • Swelling, pain or tenderness in the arms or legs.
  • Skin that on the arms or legs that is discolored and/or warm to the touch.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pain that intensifies with a deep breath.
  • Faster than normal or irregular heartbeat.

Although blood clots can be deadly if left unchecked, they are preventable and treatable. I encourage anyone undergoing treatment for cancer to talk to their doctor about their risk for blood clots. More details are available at stoptheclot.org. – Missing My Dad

A. I am so sorry for your loss, and I’m happy to print this potentially life-saving information here.

Dear Annie: Growing up, I was always in and out of foster homes. Today, my parents and siblings are not there for me or my children. But my husband and his family have been wonderful to my children and me. They’re not even like in-laws at all; I see them more like my real family than anything else.

My parents never get my kids anything for Christmas, not even a card, yet they give all my nieces and nephews gifts (including, this past year, new iPhones). My children are older now and are used to it. They don’t really mind it. But I can’t seem to get over the fact that my parents expect us to reach out to them when they don’t reciprocate. If I approach my parents to talk about this subject, they turn it around and make us the bad guys. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I always come to extended family outings just to keep

the peace. We distance ourselves aside from those events. I’m so hurt by their ways. What to do? – Sad Adult Daughter

Dear Sad: First, internalize the following: Your parents’ cold behavior is not a reflection on you. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. It simply means that they have some severe limitations that make it impossible to have the type of relationship you’d wish to have with them.

I suggest attending counseling to help you establish some healthy boundaries. You might also find solace in reading “Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life” by Susan Forward, a defining work on the subject of toxic parents.

It is remarkable how you have thrived despite your parents’ shortcomings. You have developed deep, loving relationships with your husband, children and in-laws. They are your real family, in the most meaningful sense.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.