PULSE: Bottles of hope

By Laura Raines, Pulse editor

“People hear the term ‘brain tumor’ and automatically think it’s a terminal condition,” said Denise Bond, performance improvement coordinator at Emory Eastside Medical Center in Snellville. “It doesn’t have to be.”

Bond survived a brain tumor, surgery and chemotherapy three years ago. The discovery of her tumor was an accident. She had been undergoing treatment for a goiter for 18 months and had her thyroid gland removed in early 2006.

Bottles of Hope

Brain cancer survivor Denise Bond made these Bottles of Hope out of medicine bottles and clay. (Photo by Barry Williams, for the AJC)

The thyroid was cancerous and required followup surgery, but the night before the operation, Bond had a grand mal seizure. She was rushed to the hospital and a CT scan revealed a tumor the size of a golf ball in the frontal lobe of her brain.

Bond is grateful for the state-of-the-art imaging equipment and skilled neurosurgeons at Emory Eastside. She’s also glad that her type of cancer spread slowly and that it responded to chemotherapy.

Bond’s cancer journey had some blessings. An understanding boss allowed her to schedule her job around treatments. A friend and co-worker drove her to work each day.

Bond readily tells other patients that brain tumors are treatable through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy — and that there is life after cancer.

“My quality of life is great — even better than before, because I don’t have headaches and the experience has made me stronger in my faith and my appreciation of every day,” she said.

Cancer survivor Denise Bond makes Bottles of Hope

Cancer survivor Denise Bond makes Bottles of Hope in the forms of monkeys, pigs and bears - each with an inspirational message for cancer patients.

Bond shares her hope — in the form of a small clay bottle with a message inside, which is similar to one a friend from church gave her.

“The bottles were started by a clay artist and cancer survivor, Diane Gregoire, in 1999,” Bond said.

On her Bottles of Hope Web site, Gregoire tells the story of going through chemotherapy treatment and noticing nurses throwing away small medicine bottles. She took some home and used polymer clay to turn them into colorful, one-of-a-kind works of art.

The nurses and other patients loved them, so Gregoire started giving them to friends and other patients.

“She eventually taught others to make them and it has become a grassroots movement throughout the country,” Bond said. “People fill them with the messages from the Web site, or they make up their own, or use Scripture.

“I’ve never considered myself a crafty-type person, but when a woman at church was teaching a class, I took it and have been making the bottles ever since.”

It takes Bond about two hours to make a bottle and 40 minutes to bake it. She likes to fashion the bottles into bears, pigs and monkeys.

She fills the bottles with inspirational messages, such as this poem written by Rita Wilson, a breast cancer survivor who launched the Bottles of Hope program in Australia in 2003:

This bottle is for your worries
and the aches within your heart.
A place to tuck away your fears,
where peace and love can start.
So keep it close beside you,
only you know where you’ve been.
I will help you through the road ahead
because it’s full of hope within.

You can’t buy a Bottle of Hope; they’re always given as a gifts, Bond said. She makes them for oncology offices, friends and friends of friends who have cancer.

“I don’t know how many I’ve made, and a lot of times I don’t see who receives them,” she said, “but it always makes me feel good to know that I’m doing something to give someone else hope.”

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