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"Don't give up hope": Monticello mom makes blankets for cancer patients to honor her son

Mother honors memory of late son one stitch at a time
Mother honors memory of late son one stitch at a time 02:12

MONTICELLO, Minn. – This time of year can be difficult for people who've lost a loved one. But a Monticello woman is keeping her son's memory alive by helping others.

Three years ago, Sandie Stachowicz's son Peter died from a rare brain tumor. He was just 25 years old. Now, Sandie is honoring Peter one stitch at a time.

"I thought after he passed  'What can I do?' I just don't, I don't want his memory forgotten,'" said Sandie.

Peter was an athlete, a traveler, a fun-loving guy who may have fit more into 25 years than most people do in a lifetime.

"He loved life. He was driven. He knew what he wanted. He knew where he wanted to go," said Sandie.

But in 2019, a cancerous brain tumor claimed Peter's young life. For Sandie, the grief was so overwhelming that she couldn't celebrate Christmas for a couple years. But then she got an idea.

"And then I remembered that blanket, and I go, 'There it is,'" said Sandie.  

While Peter was being treated at Monticello Cancer Center, someone gave him a blanket that he loved. So Sandie began making blankets of her own.

In three years, she's made 248 blankets that she donates to cancer patients. Each one includes her son's story.  

Peter Stachowicz Sandie Stachowicz

She also names every blanket she crochets and donates. She said the colors remind her of a memory of Peter.

The names may be associated with a sports team he loved or a place he traveled.

"The recipient would never really know the memory, but I know what it is," said Sandie.

"There is a connection there. A mom-and-son connection that was very powerful," said Susan Flemming, Peter's RN.

Those who took care of Peter at the cancer center aren't surprised Sandie does what she does.

"I think something he did that was very important with his mom also was he gave meaning to the time he had left," said Charina Wynia, nurse practitioner.

Sandie has received a number of thank-you cards from patients. And if she sees them, she tells them to live by some of the last words Peter ever said.

"With physical and speech therapy he was able to say, 'Don't give up hope,'" said Sandie. "That's the message that I want to inspire other cancer patients with."

Peter's cancer was so rare that only about 1 in 230 people are diagnosed with it each year. Sandie is always looking for yarn, so if you have some to donate, she'd be happy to take it. She's hoping to spread her mission to other hospitals as well.

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