Guest Story: Loops of Love
Laughter can be heard echoing through the halls of Caring House. Optimism and joy are just around the corner, right where you can usually find Leslie.
Leslie brings a positive, bright, uplifting energy wherever she goes. When she first arrived at Caring House, it took her no time at all to make friends with other guests. She laughs, “the doctor told me, ‘with your personality, you’ll be the queen of that place!’”
And she has been.
Here for six weeks for radiation at Duke Cancer Institute to treat her benign meningioma tumor, Leslie has kept her spirits up and created a community at Caring House with other guests who support each other through it all. The group of new friends cooked meals for the house together, had weekend movie theater and pedicure trips, played card and dice games in the evenings, and Leslie even brought two guests to her home in Thomasville, NC, to celebrate Easter weekend together.
Caring House is a place where love abounds. And not because of the house itself, but because of the guests that walk through our doors. “I think that’s one thing that’s so important – because you’re not alone here. Like I said, one meal in that dining room, you’ll make friends,” she said.
Leslie has lived quite the life. But surviving cancer at eight years old, getting injured in a car accident that left her in a full body cast in high school, and losing sight in her right eye has not slowed her down. Her inner strength seems to come from how she was raised, as she mentions her mother raising three kids under five years old while taking Leslie to all of her cancer treatments, and homeschooling her when she couldn’t go to school.
A true music lover her whole life, Leslie started playing piano at three years old, joining a country band (with Elvis Presley’s former drummer!) at eight years old, and recording a full album. Her days in high school marching band were joyous. As she tells me the stories of her life and health journey, she tears up.
“I think that is one of the hardest things for me about this. My head is so messed up it has so affected my love of music. Because now everything is noise. I’m going to get emotional. It’s been a long trek of music for me. It’s really really hard. I’ve got tinnitus that’s happening constantly in this ear. Along with hearing loss. It’s hard,” she says.
But now that her eyesight and hearing capabilities have declined, she’s turned to a different creative outlet, one that has brought guests at Caring House together – knitting.
Leslie’s ‘Prayer Pillows’ as she calls them, are puff pillows made of knitted, soft, chunky chenille yarn in an array of bright colors. She started the hobby by making a blanket for her newest granddaughter. Soon enough, her other family members began requesting blankets and pillows, and Leslie’s self-proclaimed “Loops of Love” project blossomed.
Since then, she’s made 18 pillows to give to guests at Caring House, a token of friendship and handmade comfort that she hopes brings them support. “I always try to ask the Lord’s blessing over the pillow before I give them out,” she said.
Throughout our conversation, Leslie maintains a cheery composition, laughing at any chance she can, cracking jokes, and approaching heavier topics with a grateful, lighthearted spirit. It is easy to imagine Leslie in any decade of her life facing challenges fearlessly and brightening other peoples’ lives along the way.
Leslie has even taught other guests how to make her signature pillows, spending a Spring afternoon knitting with her friends at Caring House.
Bright spools of yarn can be spotted throughout the house. A symbol of a sweet, hilarious, positive, and energetic woman named Leslie. She greets staff and guests each day, showing us her creations. And throughout it all, she weaves her joy into soft pillows, spinning comfort through her loops of love.
She gushes about everything at Caring House – the community of new friends, the weekly oncological massages, the weekends out and about, the volunteers, the screened porch, the donated meals.
I ask her how she would describe Caring House in one word. She says,
And to everyone at Caring House, she is.
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Written by Kristen Luft, Communications Associate