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PHS Stitches Together Support for Science Teacher

Square by square, students and faculty members are creating a quilt for Eileen Rohmer, who is undergoing treatment for cancer

By Daniella Mohazab and Emily Chin

The hand holds the needle. Pulling the thread through the white fabric square, the hand is relaxed. The fingers touch the symbol on the white fabric square: a purple embroidered hand. Hand in hand, helping each other, it is a community effort to create something that no one person could do alone.

A schoolwide quilt is being made for science teacher Eileen Rohmer to support her as she goes through cancer treatments. ASB advisor Mercedes Foster and science teacher Marna Chamberlain organized the making of the quilt.

“[Rohmer] knows that everybody loves her, but it’s nice because it’s not just in words, it’s in work, so she’ll be able to see it all the time. I think she’s going to like it,” Foster said.

According to an email sent by Chamberlain to students, families, and staff, in the fall Rohmer discovered she had a 10-centimeter tumor in the back portion of her brain and had immediate surgery to remove the tumor by undergoing gamma radiation, which acts like a knife, targeting very specific sites for any remaining cancer. Rohmer returned to work weeks after
surgery.

After the radiation treatments, Rohmer went back on Herceptin to treat the remaining cancer in her body. Rohmer had a routine PET scan to make sure the cancer was not growing back in the brain, which revealed that there are cancer cells growing at the surgical site and in the frontal lobe. Rohmer started whole-brain radiation after school each day at SFSU.

After two weeks of whole brain radiation, Rohmer noticed she could not hear from her left ear. After some appointments, it was clear the ear is not blocked, infected or otherwise injured. Rohmer has decided to take a leave of absence in order to provide for a healthy and restful healing environment to deal with her remaining treatments, steroids and loss of hearing.

“It’s sad, because she’s such a nice person and it’s hard for her to go through something like this,” PHS alumnus Nathaniel Jones said.

Students were invited to show their support by making a four-by-four square for the quilt. Some examples of what students included are a mole, a favorite inside joke and embroidery. [Editor's note: A mole is a unit of measurement in chemistry; some students made a play on words by depicting the animal.]

“My favorite squares are the ones that people put jokes and moles on, there’s a lot of moles on there, there’s a lot of chemistry jokes and I think that’s hilarious,” Foster said.

ASB community outreach director Elise Lasky said the idea is that the students were able to decorate the square with things that they love about Ms. Rohmer, inside jokes they have, just about anything.

“The aspiration is to provide Ms. Rohmer with not just a warm blanket, but also a reminder of the love that everyone feels for her that will never fade as she goes through this tough time,” sophomore class president Cole Becker said.

When finished, the quilt will be made up of 150 to 200 squares. It will take a while, but will hopefully be finished sometime this week, Foster said.

“A lot of people have been trying to help me, and I’ve had a lot of students who have come in and ironed the squares,” Foster said. “It’s a group effort. That’s kind of what makes it cool.”

The quilt will be presented to Rohmer sometime this week, Foster said.

“It’s a really sentimental gift — she’s going to look at it and remember that the school loves her, and recognize the people she’s met and the lives she’s changed,” Jones said.

Daniella Mohazab is a sophomore, a staff writer for The Piedmont Highlander, a varsity cross-country runner and a Piedmont Patch blogger. Emily Chin is a sophomore and a staff writer for TPH who skates at the Oakland Ice Center.

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