Cancer survivors fold thousands of origami cranes to spread hope

They're part cancer survivors, part artists. Each month, a group of women all somehow touched by cancer meet at the Piper Building at Abbot Northwestern Hospital for a program called Cranes of Hope.

“It helped me get through a lot of tough times,” said Jeanne Reeve.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, Reeve learned about the ancient Japanese legend, which claims folding a thousand origami cranes can make a wish come true.

“So when I was going through chemo, I folded a thousand cranes,” said Reeve. “And when I was going through radiation, I came up with this idea. I wanted to do artist trading cards.”
In early 2013, Reeve started Cranes of Hope, which is supported by the Penny George Institute Art of Healing Program.

“There's not a lot under your control when you have cancer, but the one thing you can control is your attitude,” said Julie Reeve, a uterine cancer survivor.

Each month, cancer survivors, health care providers, and others impacted by cancer gather to create pocket-sized works of art on playing cards, which are later placed in nearby clinics for patients to pick from.

“It feels like you are doing something because for me, I feel like I'm one of the really lucky ones,” said Patty Dunn, a breast cancer survivor.

“A little smile is all it takes to make someone’s day and these cards put a smile and people's faces,” said Anne Rosenberg, an attorney with a strong family history of cancer.

From watercolors and calligraphy to simple stamps and stickers, each card is unique with a word and a bird.  Signed by the artist and numbered, to date roughly 30,000 cranes with decorative backdrops have been handed out. And now, a second chapter has expanded to Woodbury.

“For survivors, it's a way to give back,  it's therapeutic to get to know other people,” said Susan Lombardi, nurse navigator at Health East Cancer Care.

For Reeve, the success is more than she ever hoped for because that original wish did come true. 

“Well yeah, I got through the treatment," said Reeve. “And I'm cancer free today.”

Organizers are also ways looking for more volunteers to get involved and supplies to be donated for the artists to pick from. To learn more click here and follow the group on Facebook.