One Bag

This article is a follow up to the project found at:

Eighty days ago I sat down to write a blog.

In that time I have witnessed something extra-ordinary.

I have made a little slideshow video documenting what we accomplished together. If you donated a bag that arrived before Mother’s Day, look for it to be featured in the video. The music that accompanies the following video is like the origins of this project, the songs are just me and my computer and a $10 microphone. The songs were inspired by my own life events that seemed to compliment the spirit of this project.

The following represents my individual thanks to each seamstress and contributor; it isn’t about me, it’s about you. Sit back, check the volume and witness the miracle of true charity and love that I have seen over the last 2 months and 20 days.

Many of you wrote to me of honoring a breast cancer warrior friend or family member with your donation. I received beautiful poetry inspired by the perfect imperfections of a handmade tote. You shared with me that some of the fabric used was the left over material from making beloved baby blankets, little girls’ dresses and curtains that hang in your home. The fabric had sentimental value and you deemed this a worthy cause. You were right. I was thrilled to see moms and church leaders dusting off their sewing machines and teaching the rising generation the fundamentals of a fading domestic skill.

I have been in contact with quite a few bloggers and sewing guild leaders who promoted this project. It was shared on the internet beyond my ability to track. To those who helped in any way I thank you. Here are a few of the promoters’ websites:

A big thanks to Renae at for the interview and to for the tote pattern.

Thank you to Vanessa and Kris for providing 350 beautiful handmade cards. This took so much time and work.

Thanks to my incredibly talented friend, the artist, Karalenn for helping me design the logo that is on each of the letters. I wish I could show you more of her work. It is incredible.

MJ's Cause

The purpose of “MJ’s Lost Cause” is to highlight under-appreciated opportunities and situations. I am so pleased with the response to this project. I encourage you to take the energy received through this project and to now channel it to your local hospitals. Make as many totes as you sent me, and donate them to serve your local neighbors. (Or, find some other passion in which you can serve locally.)We have seen that together we can accomplish great things, those great things can continue in your hometown. Some, like my new friend Whitney in Utah, have already taken this idea local and are having beautiful success. Again, this project isn’t about me. It is about helping one another as we fumble through this mortal experience.


We talk, and walk, and post on FB about breast cancer awareness. Sometimes I wonder how desensitized we might be getting to this kind of awareness. Has it inspired you to get a mammogram or perform Breast-Self-Exams? If so, great! It’s working!!! I just hope that we remember to become truly aware beyond wearing the t-shirt.


I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma. ER/PR-. Her2 3+. My cancer was discovered at stage 2 A or B-ish. I had 3 surgeries that added up to a partial mastectomy and then underwent 6 months of AC-T chemotherapy. Two weeks after my first chemo infusion I began losing my hair. I had my kids and my husband shave it. When I began Taxol I also began 1 year of weekly Herceptin infusions. When my 6 months of chemo ended I began 7 weeks of (5 days a week) radiation.

I have no family history of breast cancer and my BRCA1&2 tests came back normal.

I had 2 babies before cancer and 2 babies after my cancer treatment was over.

I have struggled with body image for years and only recently have I found greater peace concerning how the cancer changed me emotionally and physically.

I receive annual mammograms and have just been advised to receive annual breast MRIs staggered by 6 months from my mammograms. My mammogram a couple weeks ago showed some microcalcifications that caught the eye of the doctors. I was scheduled for a biopsy, then was relieved to hear that the biopsy was not necessary. The following day I was called again and told that after consulting with multiple doctors, mine thought it would be prudent to go ahead with the biopsy. It was a stereotactic biopsy. It was an incredibly comfortable procedure. The local anesthetic did its job wonderfully. However, because of past traumas to my breast I had a very emotional reaction to the first tiny prick of the needle. After 5 days I received the news that all was well. The pathology report came back clean.

This is breast cancer awareness.

It is raw.

It is real.

It is not all peachy.

This video was recorded just as my chemotherapy treatment was starting. I write a song for my husband’s birthday each year and because of the circumstances surrounding our lives right then, his birthday song reflected the most raw, truth I was feeling.

Please be aware of changes in your breast tissue. The best way to do this is to know what lumps and dips are normal for you. Monthly Breast Self Exams (BSE) can save lives. You are not looking for cancer with BSE, you are simply becoming familiar so that you can notice changes should they occur.

Another type of breast cancer that doesn’t seem to get any front-page coverage is Inflammatory Breast Cancer. IBC. Look it up. It is usually diagnosed by a dermatologist because of the associated topical symptoms.

If you find a lump or are worried about something that doesn’t seem right in your breast do not put a visit to the doctor’s office off out of fear. Delay can change the outcome. Early detection was my friend and offered me at least 9 years more with my family.

Educate yourself on the guidelines for breast cancer screening with your particular family history. The general guidelines, simplified, are to begin annual mammograms starting at age 40 (by which time I would have been dead) and to receive clinical breast exams every 3 years starting in your 20s.

1% of breast cancers are diagnosed in men.


In conclusion, I’d like to share that breast cancer has been a part of my life, but it is only a part. It does not define me, only links me to others who have shared in the same trial. It reminds me of mortality and the need to serve as I was served.

Life goes on and though I carry the scars of that experience, I also continue to live and dream. Someday I want to fly in a hot-air balloon, I want to grow old, I want to hear one of my songs on the radio, I want to continue my education and grow a garden and I’d love to organize another “lost cause” project.

I will find a hospital and home for every one of these love-filled handmade totes. Thank you for your generosity, your trust and your attention. I have been blessed to be in the front row, witnessing this heaven-blessed project come together. I pray the blessings of God upon each of you. May your secret acts of kindness bring the Lord’s peace in your lives.





Here’s the most recent birthday song. If you liked the others, perhaps you’ll like this one too. It’s more upbeat.

If you would like to follow future projects and updates for MJ’s Lost Cause on Facebook “like” it at

You can also contact me at













8 thoughts on “One Bag

  1. Martha, this is SO INCREDIBLE!!! I am sitting here crying and wishing I could give you a big hug and lots of kisses. YOU ARE TOTALLY AMAZING. You continue to do so many worthwhile projects and help thousands of people, most of whom you do not know nor have ever met!!! Along with moving across the nation, and carrying on everyday activities with your family and church, etc…….!!!

    Grandma Greenland

    Date: Mon, 12 May 2014 03:27:52 +0000 To:

  2. MJ,
    Thank you for thinking ahead so that you could make this wonderful video report of the progress of your tote-bag project. I look forward to hearing where the totes are distributed and know that 500+ lives are going to be touched by the thoughtfulness and generosity of so many people. Thanks for conceiving and spear-heading this project!
    Sheryl B.

  3. I so love this! Truly a successful and worthwhile project that helped so many reach outside of themselves to help others. Thank you so much for asking for help and setting a goal. I also loved you sharing your music with all of us. I still love the CD I have of yours and listening to it. You are an amazing and inspiring example to me (and I am sure to so many others!).

    Love you!

  4. What an honor to have been a small part of this great thing. I know your heart is full of gratitude and happiness to see what has been accomplished. Your idea took root, grew and flowered….that my dear, is no small thing.

  5. I’m blown away by the wonderful efforts all round. How you showcased all the bags and gifts alongside your own music was wonderful and I’m all blurry eyed as I write. Thank you for bringing so many wonderful people together all for such a good cause, and making it possible. I’ll be posting your update back on my page to let all the readers know what we can achieve when we all pull together for a good cause, such as this one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s