Make It Pink: How to Make a 'Millie Box'

comments (18) October 7th, 2009     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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For National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, why not build a pretty pink folly of a box to hold prescription drugs and related items that are so much a part of any cancer treatment and recovery program.
Gift the box filled with lotions, herbal teas, and chocolate. Once the goodies are gone, the box becomes a pretty place keep some serious medications.
This floral ornament is as easy to make as it is pretty. I owe a debt of thanks to CraftStylish member evestar for her fabulous tutorial on making these items.
For National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, why not build a pretty pink folly of a box to hold prescription drugs and related items that are so much a part of any cancer treatment and recovery program.

For National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, why not build a pretty pink folly of a box to hold prescription drugs and related items that are so much a part of any cancer treatment and recovery program.

Photo: Jeff Rudell
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As a young boy growing up in Michigan, I remember it was an 8-year-old friend who first told me what cancer was: "Cancer is where you get sick and there's no cure. Then you get sad and your skin turns a funny color and everybody cries whenever they see you."

This little gem of a definition was likely a hybrid of some overheard adult conversation coupled with a few astute observations on the part of my friend. As absurd as it may now sound, this was the definition of cancer that I carried around with me for the first 19 years of my life. Until I met Millie.

She was just a woman I would pass on my way home from my college job as a waiter. She would be out in her garden or watering her yard when I walked by after my shift and, as people do in the Midwest, I would wave or say hello or stop, momentarily, and remark upon the fine or poor weather we'd been having. It's not as if we had much in common. She was 40 (incredibly old to me at the time) and I was 19. She'd been divorced and now lived alone, while I was living in a dorm with 1,200 other students and was obsessed with figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.

Over time, our acquaintance grew and within six months I was stopping to sit on her porch with her or sit at her kitchen table for a spell while she cooked. It's fun having friends who are older than you, but it's especially fun to do so when you're young.

In February of the following year, Millie was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she shared this news with me, I started to cry and my first question was, "How long do you have to live?" (Thank God for the gloriously mature who put up with the ridiculously young!) "As long as I like, I suppose," was her answer.

Given the definition of cancer I was operating under (see above), it all seemed terrible and horrible and frightening and I started to pull away a bit. I stopped by less often and always had an excuse ready as to why I couldn't stay longer. In truth, it was very sad seeing her and thinking she was dying and not knowing how to control that outcome (ah, youth, always certain things can be controlled).

Millie must have sensed that I was uncomfortable, she must have known I felt helpless, because she started asking me to do things for her: mow her lawn, go shopping for her, take out her trash on Thursday nights. I, of course, was grateful to have something to DO, some task that let me feel like I was helping without having to actually face up to the situation at hand.

One day, as I was coming home from work and hoping Millie was not in her yard so I could sneak past her house without talking, I found her at the edge of her yard, waiting for me. She said she needed a box, about 8 inches square and almost as deep. She had a lot of pill bottles and ointments and creams, all things related to her treatment and she needed someplace to put them. She couldn't stand having them on her nightstand because, as she said, "I wake up every morning and the first thing I see are all those bottles telling me, 'You're not going to win,' 'This is going to kill you,' 'None of this is working.'"

So I found her a nice sturdy box and I painted some brightly colored flowers on it to help make it look cheery. She said, "It's almost perfect," and she started to cry a little.

I didn't see the box I'd made for her again for many years. Then, one day she pulled it out of a closet and asked me if I remembered making it for her. I looked at it closely. It was exactly as I had painted it save for one minor change. Millie had written ten words across the top of the box with a wide, black marker. It read: "I am the gardener. Cancer is the weed. I win."

So today, in honor of Millie and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought a gift box would be in order. Something pretty that could be loaded up with all manner of creams and ointments and herbal concoctions and brought to a friend. Once the contents are gone, it can double as a bedside caddy for all those awful, ugly, and depressing pill bottles that are part and parcel of every cancer patient's life.

I started with a large piece of white cardstock and a piece of pink rice paper with embedded flower petals. Download a 50% scale PDF template.


Affix a small strip of double-stick tape to the bottom flap (or use a sturdy white glue).


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Comments (18)

gemini51 writes: Many thanks for sharing this great idea. I have a dear friend who has Motor Nurone Desease and although she cannot eat or drink I am going to make and fill my box with some things that will hopefully make her day a little brighter. Thankyou :)
Posted: 8:07 am on February 6th
momsky writes: I am a survivor aswell,my wonderfull family and husband help me deal with breast cancer. now i try to help others win the fight. this will be a perfect gift to does i will new fighters i will meet.
Posted: 1:16 pm on January 4th
cathyfromyokohoma writes: as a breast cancer survivor I would like to say that you are a very special person for helping Millie. I had many friends that helped me while I was going through the treatments & they kept me going One of them told me that even when I lost my hair I was the same person. Hair doesn't make the person. How true.
Posted: 9:52 pm on November 26th
wilksgallery writes: Thanks so much for sharing, a good friend of mine has just started chemo so this would be a great little gift for her.
Posted: 8:01 am on October 9th
Juliasew writes: What a lovely story with insight.
My Aunt is going through bc treatment right now & I have been wondering how I can help from so far away!

I will make a zippered bag, with the same ideas in mind, in colors & fabrics I know she likes.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Posted: 2:52 pm on October 8th
Muzerlina writes: I loved the story! I have passed it on to a few friends. Thank you for sharing!
Posted: 7:22 am on October 8th
Louccee writes: Thank you Jeffrey for this wonderful contribution. Our friend Karen lost her battle with BC one year ago tomorrow. It means so much to hear inspirational stories like Millie's. I will make the box in memory of her.
Posted: 5:43 am on October 8th
EdeeJoyce writes: This is great! Just about everyone I know has tons of meds and this would be so perfect! Good job!
Posted: 1:34 am on October 8th
Luceida writes: great story... I love the box.
Posted: 5:58 pm on October 7th
HeronMoonDesignworks writes: And, although my initial inclination was to plan one, thinking I'd make it more durable, with masonite and quilted fabric and a polymer clay knob I'd designed for the top, a couple of minutes' thought produced an "aha": the very paper, fragile, transient nature of it is, actually, perfect. It should be meant to be discarded, after the cancer has been beaten. In addition to being an excellent storyteller and a skillful and original craftsperson, Mr. Rudell is an unusually intuitive person--and, even more, an unusually intuitive male of the species. Thanks for sharing both the plans and the insight.

Terri, Heron Moon Designworks
Posted: 10:05 am on January 31st
Prissy1 writes: I too am a breast cancer survivor and love this excellant idea! Unfortunately, I hear of friends far too often who have also been diagnosed. One in particular who is having a hard time with holding a positive attitude. I plan on making a Millie Box for her and embellishing it with words of encouragement. I can only hope it inspires her to "never give up!" There are millions of us who are survivors and without the thoughtful friends and family may have had far different results. Personally, I couldn't have done it without them. On the rough days, I'd always hear from someone it seemed and even if it were in an abstract way it pulled me right back up. You just never know how much those kind words or deeds mean to someone, spoken or given just at the right moment. I think that I will find a beautiful bead or small ornate knob for the top of hers. Your story is beautiful! I was also in tears.
Posted: 4:20 pm on December 27th
Rooty_Tooty writes: What a wonderful little project! This would make a great gift for anyone who must take meds on a regular basis. I like Millie's idea of adding some appropriatly inspirational words. Doing so, based on individual circumstances, could make this gift even more special. I would also suggest that the top portion might be made of posterboard or oak tag instead of cardstock for the sake of durability. The foam core board and the delicate rice paper are perfect!
Posted: 12:18 am on November 13th
Average_Jane_Crafter writes: I am in tears over here! What a beautiful project - both in thought and execution. I never would have known to make something like this for someone fighting cancer, and yet it is the most simple and perfect and thoughtful gift for a fighter I have ever seen.

Thank you for sharing!
Posted: 10:32 am on October 25th
crochet_art_n_motion writes: I too am a breast cancer survivor and I would have loved to receive such a beautiful gift. I want to make it and use it just as it is demonstrated in these images.

Thank you, thank you thank you.


PS: I think men that craft are Super Heros!
Posted: 10:54 am on October 21st
hondamom1 writes: As a breast cancer survivor, I would have cherished both the friendship and having such a wonderful gift from a younger friend. What a beautiful gift! I am definitely making this!
Posted: 9:22 pm on October 20th
LonesomeRoadStudio writes: This is simply beautiful, what a thoughtful idea and a lovely project.
Posted: 1:07 pm on October 20th
myyellowhouse writes: As a survivor myself, it is the little things that people do for you that mean the most.
What a perfect gift for those who don't know what to do and want to do something!
You brought a tear of joy to my eye. Love to the survivors and all of their caretakers.
Posted: 1:20 pm on October 13th
LindaPermann writes: What a touching story, and a great little project!
Posted: 12:45 pm on October 13th
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