Val Smith’s quilt creations in recent years may have varied in size, colour and intricacy, but there is one thread that links them all: cancer.
“It gave me an outlet for my frustration,” Smith said, of how focusing on quilting distracted her not just from her cancer, but from the additional isolation that came with fighting her disease during COVID.
“I was one of the people who really had to isolate more than the average person. (But) I can look back and see what I created, and so it hasn’t been all negative.”
While cancer has been in the picture for Smith since 2016 , the White Rock resident’s history with quilting goes back much further.
She began dabbling in the craft 50 years ago, and continued to do so “off and on” for a couple of decades. For the past 30 years, she has been “full into it,” including through her years as a sewing teacher at Surrey’s Guildford Park Secondary.
The career was a perfect fit, she noted, as it combined her passions for art and sewing, and opened the door to be really creative.
Over the years, she has often given her quilts to friends and family, and even donated them to organizations such as the food bank and fundraisers like Cops for Cancer.
But despite her history and prowess with the craft – fellow quilter Donna Mercer describes Smith as “the best quilter that I know” – Smith said she never ventured into selling her creations.
But that is all changing, for a brief time, at least.
This week, Smith will have a series of her decorative handiwork on display and up for sale at the Fraser Valley Quilting Guild’s 2023 Quilt Show.
Set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday (May 12 and 13) at the George Preston Recreation Centre in Langley (20699 42 Ave.), the biannual show is part of the guild’s efforts to “bring the joy of quilting to the public.”
Typically a largely display-only event featuring a range of around 200 “amazing” quilts by guild members, Smith has been afforded space to display and sell a multitude of her “urban landscape” pieces to raise money for the BC Cancer Foundation.
Noting she could not have pulled her display together without the help of her quilting ‘family’ – and three friends in particular – Smith said she’s hoping to raise at least $10,000, but that she also sees the effort as an opportunity to help others who may be facing cancer.
“I’m prepared to talk to people about it, and about what it’s been like going through, and the kind of support I’ve had from BC Cancer and friends,” Smith said.
“It is very difficult to go through something like this alone.”
Currently living with Stage 4 cervical cancer, Smith said she has outlived a number of prognoses so far – including one that, seven years ago, gave her a 30 per cent chance of living another five years.
She credits where she is now in large part to positive thinking – “having a good state of mind and not dwelling on how negative it could be.”
“I think that’s a good message, especially for people that are just starting a cancer journey,” she continued.
“Trying to look for a distraction, so that you don’t constantly dwell on how terrible your situation could possibly be.”
Smith said she has also been part of some “groundbreaking programs” through BC Cancer that lifted her spirits, including one in which DNA sequencing was conducted on her tumour.
Researchers didn’t find a cure, but they did learn some things and find some possible additional treatments, “should I need them,” she said.
“They may learn something about me that somebody else can benefit from, so you kind of pay it back.”
Donations to Smith’s fundraising efforts can be made at donate.bccancerfoundation.com. For more information on Quilt Show 2023, visit fvqg.org