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A Paper Crane Project: Coping with a Parent’s Diagnosis

A Paper Crane Project: Coping with a Parent’s Diagnosis

My Dad’s Diagnosis

For six months my studio apartment slowly filled with paper cranes. At first they started lining windowsills then bookshelves, countertops and wallboards. Finally, when space ran out, I strung the cranes using clear fishing wire and hung them on the walls.

In June 2013 my Dad was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As a 20-something starting my own life nearly 300 miles away, I was torn. I felt a duty as an able-bodied adult—and a daughter—to be there as a caregiver for my dad at home. I also acknowledged that leaving behind my job and apartment was not a practical decision, nor something my dad wanted for me.

A Paper Crane Project

I decided that I needed to maintain my daily routine but that I didn’t want to distance my thoughts from Dad’s challenging battle ahead. At a friend’s suggestion, I started making origami paper cranes. Like my dad was committed to his recovery, I committed myself to one crane every day until he was cancer-free and finished with his treatment.

Everyday, as I folded, I allowed myself a few minutes to reflect, cry, scream or be silent. It helped me to experience these emotions but maintain a positive and productive focus. After a few weeks of making cranes and sharing my story through my blog, Facebook and Twitter, I began to connect with other people my age, struggling to cope with their own parent’s serious illness.

The Results

The cranes became a gateway for me to talk about my dad’s diagnosis with myself, others in the cancer community, and even my dad. As he is recovering from his final chemo treatment, he’s already thinking of ways to continue connecting with others through our crane project. These cranes will continue to be a sign of encouragement, reflection and love for my dad and our whole family. I can’t wait to begin sharing them with other families, too.

Paper Cranes

Photo caption
Katrina strings paper cranes to her bedroom walls, a colorful reminder that love and care-taking can even happen 300 miles away. Photo credit: Brock Petrie

Coping through Creativity

Have you faced a health event, whether a caregiver, personally or as a friend and used creativity to cope with what was occurring? If so, we’d love to hear your stories, see your photos and see what you have to share. Please provide your experiences, thoughts and photos in the comments section below and show everyone how you coped through creativity.

Also, if you’d like to hear more about Katrina’s father, Jim, and his health journey, check out his previous blog post about receiving a after his cancer diagnosis.

About the Author:

Katrina Wollet is a freelance storyteller. If she isn’t in her studio, she is probably in the woods, lost near downtown Minneapolis, or looking for her glasses. Every fall she goes straight from sandals to boots, and every spring she does the reverse.


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7 Replies

  • By Breanna Marcum

    Wow, this is such an inspiring story of love and commitment. Also, what a great example of coping positively and how that can effect so many people for the better. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story!

  • By Shannon Gamble

    This story made me cry. My mom was recently diagnosed with Glioblastoma and I too am coping with all the feelings that come with a parents illness, and I am much older than you Katrina! I too have used art to cope with the shock of this news, and now I am inspired to share it here…as soon as I have a free hour to post it! Thanks Katrina for your story. One thing for sure, we are not alone!

  • By Mandy Glover

    Katrina! What a beautiful tribute. My husband was just diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s been difficult on me and my children. We are a 30-something couple looking for something to do with our kids (was thinking paper chains) to document his journey. Thanks for the inspiration and sharing your story.

  • By Keith rowe

    Yes I agree. The girls I played cards with,and all that was there during my stay in Bristol give me a holla

  • By Corrinna Avery

    When I was a little girl, in elementary school the librarian read a book to us called 1000 Paper Cranes. It was about a little girl that had leukemia and she was told that if she folded 1000 paper cranes, the cancer would be gone. Every since I heard that story I got really into origami and making paper cranes. I have made a couple paper crane mobiles as gifts and people really like them. When I saw this story I almost couldn’t believe it. I am sorry to here about your dad, it must be very difficult, but just know every time I make a paper crane now, I will be thinking of you.

  • By Juli

    I connected with your story of creating something with your hands to deal with all the emotions you were going through. I’m glad to hear your father is done with chemo and I hope that he will have a full recovery. My son was diagnosed with a rare heart defect in April of last year, underwent open heart surgery in July and headed off to college 3,000 miles away just 6 weeks later. I was left with an empty nest and overwhelming grief. I created an “art studio” started painting, and doing mixed media pieces. Whatever I felt like doing that day. This piece says “her sweet boy had faith and courage.”

  • By Darryl

    My daughter was just diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and just started her treatment Monday so this just lifted my spirits to here this. Thank you.