RSS Feed

Category Archives: Cancer

Journey to Hair

Posted on

Folks have commented about my hair since I’ve started blogging about sewing and modeling the garments again. Honestly, it’s kind of difficult to get the focus on the garments when there’s all this wild silver/gray/brown/blondish stuff flying around. Most like it a lot and some have curly hair that kinks out too much in the humidity, too. I hope the story of my journey helps any one who needs it.

Let’s start at the beginning: I had hair, then I lost it and now I’m trying to get it back. Here’s the backstory.

This is me at 40, in 1990. My hair is cut short on top (I had found it hopeless to try to grow it out all one length) and long in back to the middle of my back. I used nothing more than shampoo, conditioner and setting gel (it might have been dippity-do LOL) and then waited 2 or more days for it to dry. It rarely looked this tidy!
Unadulterated Me
As years passed and our business demanded more travel I started having it done weekly as I couldn’t take the time to do it myself and do the traveling our business demanded. It had grown to my waist and was frankly a horrible, bushy nuisance.

I had bad reactions to most hair straighteners and colorants but Aveda didn’t seem to be so bad so I found a good Aveda stylist in town. He colored it, cut it short and pressed it straight so it was less eccentric. That worked for work. He styled me like a screen siren, let me tell you! But by the next week I was looking pretty limp.

But cancer came along in 2007 and half of it fell out. Nobody noticed it much because I had so much of it. I stayed ill and frail for a couple of years after I was declared tumor free. I looked dull and exhausted all the time.
This is Fall 2009
Oct 31 2009
My hair dresser took pity on me and gave me highlights and let it grow longer
January 2010
But I wanted to return to my roots, to put myself back together again and so in March I asked him to take the color out as much as possible, as long as it would not turn orange or yellow. He promised it wouldn’t but in April 2010 I looked like this:
it took 2-3 weeks of bleaching twice a week to get this. This is in May:
1 May 3 2010
it broke off and fell out like I was in chemo all over again! So I just quit going back and did my own weekly hair cutting until I looked like this on Dec 31, 2010
2 Dec 31 2010
By June 2011 I had cut off most of the yellow
3 June 18 2011
The next picture was taken in Dec 2012, 1.5 years later. The chemical yellow was gone and I was washing it weekly with Sulfate-Free shampoo and setting it on rollers so I could handle it easier. Once or twice a month I’d use a blue tint shampoo that is no longer available and you can see the ultra blue in this photo
Dec 8 2012
5 Dec 8 2012
I learned quite a bit about my hair from my salon experience: it’s very delicate, thin and fine but with thick growth, and frizzes completely in the back when I sleep with it down against the pillow. Being in the sun oxidizes it so it breaks off on its own with nothing more than a half day in the sun.
But it seemed to be thinning at a rapid pace and my scalp itched like crazy all the time. I switched shampoos but that didn’t help. My stash of blue tint stuff ran out.

I was losing all my hair AGAIN and in misery with the itching so I stopped rolling it and that really didn’t change anything. I studied all the Plopping Techniques (you’ve heard of Plopping, haven’t you? that cracked me up!) and read all the chat boards about how to handle natural curls. I was getting by but not thriving. Thank the Lord for the burst of products of the market and information on the internet, too. Sure isn’t like the first 45 years of my life!

In Spring 2013 the humidity increased with the warming temperatures and I was beginning to get dreadlocks, with the curls tangling back up the hair length. This is May 2013
6 May 9 2013
and breakage from working out in the sun so little spirals were sticking out all over! I started rolling it again so it was more workable, wrapping it up if I was outside, keeping it in a french twist so it wouldn’t tangle and massaging coconut oil into my scalp. The itching stopped immediately!
These are June 2013
7 June 8 2013
8 June 27 2013
Southern summers are so humid fighting the dreads can take a long time to carefully comb out (wide toothed comb only!) I decided to stop using a comb and do the untangling with my fingers and coconut oil. This braid took the better part of an afternoon to do but it allowed for a good deep conditioning with coconut oil. July 2013
9 July 14 2013
I learned to use the oil, slicking it through the strands of wet hair with my fingers after shampooing and got this result: much calmer hair
10 July 29 2013
For the past month if I feel tangles, I slick up the stands with coconut oil on my hands and gently pull and stroke a small clump of hair until it is smooth and straightened, using my fingers and nails as a gentle comb.
Then I’ll smooth and twist the stands into a curl and move on to the next area. I only use the comb if I am going to try to put it up on my head and only after I have gotten out as many tangles as I can find.
Using this Hands On Method (pun intended) I discovered that the ends in the back were not softening with the oil treatment and I trimmed about an inch off in the areas that seemed rough as best I could. Someday I’ll find a hair dresser that I trust again and go have it professionally evened up. Someday. Not yet.
This was yesterday’s shoot (Aug 22, 2013) and you can see it’s beginning to become a bit wild in the humid wind outdoors
11 Aug 22 2013
So I put it up on top of my head with a thickly covered band (never use a plain rubber band!) for sleeping and today I have given it a careful slicking down with coconut oil, coiling each clump into a curled strand, in prep for washing and rolling tomorrow
13 Aug 23 2013
weather permitting. It’s not worth the time it takes to roll and sit under the hair dryer if it rains like it has for the past week. If it’s still stormy weather I’ll wash it, lightly oil it down with some setting gel added in and let it dry naturally.
The only “problem” with my method is that the coconut oil makes the hair darker, not as silvery, you can see how it is many different colors today
12 2013 Aug 23 side

I tried the Moroccan Oil (Argan oil) but it seemed to give even more of a yellow tint and didn’t seem to absorb in my hair like the coconut oil does.

Hopefully I’ll be able to grow all my hair back, keep the length and survive in a humid climate.

I’ll spare you the rant about what it’s like being the only white girl around with wild curly hair in the segregated South of the 50-60’s and having to be groomed by other whites who had no respect for nor understanding of how to care for curly hair. Nope, I won’t say another word.

But I do love coconuts!


In Memorium for Fred Bloebaum

I have noticed people searching for information about Fred and LaFred patterns so I, with great sadness, pass on this information.

Dr Bresnik, Fred’s husband, posted this information on the CarePages for FredFans early this morning. It will be published in the San Francisco Chronicle today.

Fred (Janis) Bloebaum
59, of Oakland, CA passed away in her home on September 4, 2010. Born in Rock Island, IL, she graduated from the University of Illinois in 1973 and was a Bay Area resident since 1977. Fred was the creator of the La Fred pattern line and a nationally renowned sewing and clothing design instructor. Fred’s sense of style, fashion, color and beauty was a driving passion in her life, which was appreciated by everyone she knew. Fred was a wonderful, loving, vivacious and generous friend, sister, wife and mother. She had a huge impact on all the people she touched and will live in our hearts forever.

She is survived by her husband Dr Mark Bresnik, her son Andrew Bresnik (BJ Taylor) and grandson Oliver of Seattle, Washington, her mother Donnella Bloebaum, her brother Michael Bloebaum and sisters Cynthia Bloebaum, Gail Swain and Peggy Green.
Family and friends are invited to celebrate her life on Friday, Sept 17, 1pm at Plymouth United Church of Christ, 424 Monte Vista Avenue, Oakland. Per Fred’s request, please wear your favorite colors. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Project Open Hand 730 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA and Sutter VNA Hospice, 1900 Powell St, Emeryville CA.

If you want more information and to read all the posts since Feb 15, 2010, when pancreatic cancer with liver involvement were first published, you can go to the FredFans page here

I feel cancer threatening too many, too often, and it is almost crushing.


Fred Bloebaum. Thank you for adding your sparkle to the sewing community. You’ll be missed.

Athena Blouse by Fred Bloebaum

Athena Blouse by La Fred Bloebaum

LaFred Patterns

Posted on

Fred Bloebaum’s patterns can now be found at .  At the moment the patterns are available at a slight discount.

Like so many people I know these days, Fred is wagging an intense war against cancer with the help and support of a large circle of friends, family and medical practitioners and has closed her businesses.  It must feel good to her to have this pressure off her plate.  I met her once at a sewing conference and found her to be intensely devoted to helping her customers.  She’s a sweet lady and I am glad she was/is a part of my sewing life.

I have made up the Iris skirt and love the angled pockets and drape of the slight A-line.  I didn’t review it anywhere but it was a staple of my skirt wardrobe done in linen and linen/rayon mix.

Iris Skirt

I also have made only one iteration of the Helena Dress and still wear it.  Made in a stretchy, drapey matte jersey, it fit well through all my weight fluctuations. My PR review is HERE and I point you to it since it details all the adjustments I made to fit the pattern to my shape after incorporating the fitting information from the 4 other reviews.

There are lots of reviews of LaFred patterns at PR.  Just go to the advanced search function and point to LaFred to see them all.

Hmmmm, I know I have the Athena Blouse pattern, I wonder if I ever got around to ordering the Athena II?  I don’t see it at so maybe it’s too late!  I will have to check the file cabinet…far too many patterns…far too little time.

There are a few other LaFred patterns in my totally huge stash that deserve exploration: the Daphne Pant, the Europa Blouse, the Maia Jacket.  Her instructions are really good and each pattern has an interesting sewing challenge.  Just a few style changes can bring the basic shapes up to date.

Do you have any favorites?

Down One

Posted on

My “Patch Work” is done. Patch’s struggles ended on Sunday. He wanted to go to The Stitchery until the very end.

Patch Discovers The Stitchery Mirror August 2009

It’s About Time

Posted on

I have been thinking about this post for the past month. I miss what used to be a big part of my life: sewing and then sharing. So it’s time to break the silence.

These days it’s all about Patch

Patch on March 20, 2010

As soon as I scraped myself off the ceiling about the sudden death in my family, Patch entered what looked to be time for more surgery to remove his latest crop of tummy tumors.

But there are too many tumors to do surgery. So we did chemo to shrink them. And found the cancer had spread to his lungs and possibly his brain. He’s had some strokes or brain malfunctions and ends up with problems like missing the door by a foot and a half or loses some abilities like walking or hearing or seeing. Right now he’s not able to keep anything down.

But still Patch has good days and bad days.

So he’s resting except for bathroom and sick breaks if I’m lucky enough to catch him in time. Everything changes all the time and I’m on a dog watch and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

In between I have been slowly working on a bodice and skirt sloper following the techniques given in the book The European Cut by Elizabeth Allemong.

I have made mistake after mistake: taking my measurements wrong (especially in getting a waistline that isn’t level), putting on weight and taking it off, misreading the directions, inaccurate drafting measurements, and for the life of me cannot get 2 photos of the same muslin that reveal the same “problems”!!! This is ridiculous. I’m made slopers that fit before and drafted (and draped) my own patterns. My focus is elsewhere.

All I wanted was a solid sloper on which to base alterations to the Edith Head pattern, Advance 9291.

1950-1960 Edith Head pattern

I’m in a sloper slump, something I’m sure others have suffered through and survived, and I will pull out of this as soon as the weather warms with Spring.

I am absolutely am not going to cut short this dog’s life to get the freedom I think I want. He’s as much a part of the Whole of Life as I am and he cannot be slighted any chance to live it. My needs can wait for the time being. I know he appreciates having a real home in the meantime. Dying alone will not be in his future.

And I hope to be back to producing sewn garments soon with Patch sleeping by the clear glass door in the sewing room and next to his buddy, Gaely GoLightly.

Rejoicing in the Dog House

Posted on

I heard from the vet yesterday and Gaely’s biopsy came back negative for cancer! Yippeee, yay, cool. Thanks for your prayers!

Gaely is feeling better and better each day she’s on antibiotics and wants to know why she has to have her picture taken. She doesn’t like pictures and the flash.

Miss Gaely GoLightly

It’s so nice to have a frisky, curious, adventuring Westie again :).

Patch is stoic about pictures or so that’s the way he looks.

He’s been off the chain and out of the weather for 2 months now.

Patch after 2 months

Gaely’s improved health will help Patch learn how to play and have a great time, too.

hugs all!