16-Year-Old with Cancer Crochets Gift Baskets for NICU Babies as She Undergoes Chemo

Northwestern Medicine
Cancer Care/Oncology July 19, 2020
One year ago, Tavinya Taylor was a 15-year-old girl active in school, church and sports. Now she is starting her fifth cycle of chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

As she works through the challenges and oftentimes debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, she’s found a way to channel what energy she has left into making gift baskets for babies.

“While I was stuck at home, I often wasn’t feeling well and I couldn’t see very well from the chemo,” Taylor said. “I’ve been crocheting since I was five and knitting since I was 10 or 11, so it was an activity that helped pass the time that I didn’t have to actually look at.”
16-year-old Tavinya Taylor of Wheaton crocheted gifts for babies in the NICU while undergoing chemotherapy.
During her treatments at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, Taylor bonded with Allie Jones, a child life specialist who supports patients going through cancer treatment.

“Tavinya and I began connecting and talking about her interests to help pass the long days at the clinic,” Jones said. “She shared about her hobby of crocheting and knitting. She was working on an adorable pair of booties at the time and offered to make some for the hospital.”

Taylor started to crochet baby hats, booties and even teddy bears. She put her homemade gifts into small gift baskets packed with rubber ducks, baby soap and baby nail clippers.

“I thought, ‘why not do something fun that could bless others?’” Taylor said.

A few weeks later, she brought her finished baskets to the hospital and gave them to Jones, who delivered them to the NICU at Central DuPage Hospital.

“I marvel at Tavinya’s ability to think about others despite her own trials and circumstances,” Jones said. “She made each baby item out of such love, selflessness, and compassion – all while fighting cancer.”

Putting together the gift baskets helps Taylor focus on something positive during her chemotherapy. She’s made nine so far and plans to make more.

“I just wanted to make those baby baskets and donate them because I wanted to bless others,” she said. “That’s what I was trying to do; brighten their parents’ day and give them hope that it’s going to get better.”

Taylor started to feel sick in September, when she was struggling on the cross-country team at Wheaton North High School. After qualifying for state her freshman year, the impact on her running was confusing and frustrating. It wasn’t until March of this year that she received her cancer diagnosis.

“I was so thankful to finally know what it was that I had,” she said. “Not knowing what I had was almost worse than actually knowing.”

Soon after her diagnosis, COVID-19 began to hit Illinois hard. Taylor is actually grateful for the timing, because she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on things.

“It was a silver lining for me, because everybody left school,” she said. “It’s actually made things easier, because I didn’t miss out on track, events at school or on vacations this summer.”

At the end of May, Taylor and her parents were upset to learn she would need chemotherapy for the rest of the summer.

“I was supposed to be done with chemo, but it didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” she said. “That was hard, and I was really upset. But everyone at the hospital is great, they’re so encouraging. Even though you don’t want to be there, being with friendly faces really helps.”

As she starts her next round of chemotherapy, Taylor and her parents rely on their faith and the support of friends, family and their church. You can follow Taylor’s progress through her CaringBridge journal.

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