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'We're in this together': Sask. woman spreading joy to other cancer warriors through crocheted keychains

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A Saskatchewan woman is focusing on bringing happiness to other people who are battling cancer as she fights the disease herself.

In May 2022, Marielle Dionne was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

“I had surgery in October. I’ve been through five treatments of chemotherapy and 25 radiation treatments. Now, I’m on immunotherapy for a year,” she said.

During her first chemotherapy treatment, Dionne said she noticed it was very quiet.

“I thought ‘oh gosh, I wish I could do something to bring a bit of conversation to the place,’” she said.

When she got home that day, she started brainstorming with her daughter Adelle, who is also fighting cancer.

They started searching for ideas online.

“That’s where I got the idea for the ribbon keychains,” Dionne said.

“I thought ‘gee, maybe this will make people talk a little bit and converse about their cancer while they’re at treatment.’”

Dionne started crocheting cancer ribbons in July, forming them into keychains.

She makes them in 21 different colours, which symbolize different forms of cancer.

“[Patients] can take the colour of their cancer if they want to show that they have a certain cancer, or they can take their favourite colour,” Dionne said.

She started off making 10 ribbons of every colour - 210 in total. Now about six months later, she’s made 654 and counting.

“I can whip them up in 10 minutes, but then I pin them all and starch them. They have to stay overnight. I also have a poem that I put with each one,” she said. “That’s what takes time.”

Fighting the disease has not been easy, but Dionne said this project keeps her busy while also bringing smiles to people who are in a similar position.

“I wanted them to know that they’re fighters. They’re warriors,” she said.

“They have a battle. They’re there because they’re fighting cancer the same way I’m fighting cancer. The same way my daughter is fighting cancer. I want them to know that they are important. It’s my way of showing them that we’re in this together.”

Adelle Dionne, Marielle’s daughter, said fighting cancer along side her mom hasn’t been easy, but it has brought them closer.

“I don’t wish it upon anyone, but we’re strong together,” Adelle said.

“[The ribbons] keeps her mind off treatment and to see her happy makes me happy.”

Dionne has started getting requests for her keychains from across the country. She has sent them as far as Ontario and British Columbia.

As she continues immunotherapy for a year, Dionne said she plans to keep creating keychains to spread a little joy to the people who need it.

“My plan is to continue until my daughter and I are free of cancer,” Dionne said.

“She and I will take a picture underneath the cancer free sign at the Allan Blair [Cancer Centre].”

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