Handmade: Knitting relieves stress related to cancer

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Knitting is such a wonderful way to sooth the mind, body and soul – health benefits that are helping individuals at the Lake House in St. Clair Shores, who’ve been affected by cancer, cope day to day.

In January, program participant and cancer survivor Philly Tucker decided to share her knitting skills so others could discover how it can help with stress and healing when faced with such a traumatic life experience. It would be her way of giving back to the Lake House, and “paying it forward.”

The Lake House’s mission is to provide a safe harbor to support, educate and empower those touched by cancer, including family, friends and caregivers, according to its website. It caters to those in St. Clair Shores, Northeast Wayne County and Macomb County.

“(It) offers a comprehensive program of emotional and social support that, according to the National Health Institute, is an essential component of your overall treatment,” reads its website.

Lake House executive director Madeline Bialecki of St. Clair Shores is well aware of the benefits knitting can provide for cancer patients. She said, “Knitting, by its repetitive nature, helps people focus – like in meditation practice. And, knitting in a group, provides social interaction. It’s also a sense of control that cancer patients often don’t have.”

Margaret D’herde of Sterling Heights, a six-year uterine cancer survivor, is among the small but growing group of knitters who meet every first and third Thursday of the month from 1-3 p.m. in a room at the facility, housed in the former Pare Elementary School, 23500 Pare in St. Clair Shores.

“Most of us find knitting to be relaxing,” she said. “We haven’t gotten into crocheting, but I hope that’s a possibility for the future because I’d really like to learn!”

Some participants are still undergoing cancer treatments, and one is actually relearning to knit. D’herde said, “She knitted something while going through treatments, but said, ‘I don’t remember how I did it.’”

The class is for knitters of all skill levels. “If you don’t know how to knit, the instructor is more than happy to get you started by showing you how to do the knit and purl stitches,” D’herde added. “She normally has a small project for the day, and sometimes we get it done, and sometimes we don’t.”

D’herde, who’s been active with the knitting program for about the past four months, said she’s a lifetime crafter. “I like being busy. I think it started with my mom, who always did knitting and needlework.”

The Lake House also offers a range of other programs, including wellness activities (Zumba Lite, Gentle Yoga, Mindful Meditation and Energy Work); support groups (From One Friend to Another; I Have Cancer, Now What?, Newly-Diagnosed Cancer Support, Friends Like Me – Family Art Program, Women’s Cancer Support Group, Touched by Cancer Support Group, and Bereavement: Finding Your Way); speakers and events; and social activities (Writing For Wellness, Euchre Night, Drumming Circle, Healing Arts, Knitting, and Make-It Monday).

Make-It Monday classes are held the first four Mondays of the month, from 1-2:30 p.m., for which D’herde serves as an alternate volunteer instructor, along with Sue Elwart of St. Clair Shores. Participants learn jewelry making, fiber crafts, stamping, cardmaking and painting.

If you’ve been affected by cancer and would like to participate in one of the programs, make reservations by calling (586) 777-7761 or email Reservations are recommended, but not required.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or

Contact The Lake House (23500 Pare, St. Clair Shores) at ( 586) 777-7761,, or on Facebook.