"I thought, ‘Why not do something fun that could bless others?’... That’s what I was trying to do – brighten their parents’ day and give them hope that it’s going to get better,' says Tavinya Taylor

By Rachel DeSantis
July 16, 2020 12:17 PM
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Tavinya Taylor
| Credit: The Taylor Family

A teenage girl in Illinois undergoing chemotherapy has found a way to give back as she braves her battle with cancer.

Tavinya Taylor, 16, has been crocheting items for gift baskets to give to the families of babies in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, where she recently started her fifth chemotherapy cycle, according to the hospital.

She’s made everything from baby hats and booties to tiny teddy bears, which she neatly packages in gift baskets filled with other essentials, like rubber ducks, soap and nail clippers.

“I thought, ‘Why not do something fun that could bless others?’” the teen told the hospital in a media release. “That’s what I was trying to do — brighten their parents’ day and give them hope that it’s going to get better.”

Taylor first fell ill in September, when the typically athletic student faced new difficulties while running cross-country for Wheaton North High School, the hospital said.

Tavinya Taylor's gift baskets
| Credit: The Taylor Family

Two months later, she was told she had Lyme disease, but in March, she was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma — something she said actually brought some relief.

“I was so thankful to finally know what it was that I had. Not knowing what I had was almost worse than actually knowing,” Taylor said in the release.

Taylor has long been passionate about crocheting and knitting, and the idea to put her talents to good use came through talks with Allie Jones, a child life specialist at the hospital who noticed her working on a pair of booties.

Tavinya Taylor
| Credit: The Taylor Family

“While I was stuck at home, I often wasn’t feeling well and I couldn’t see very well from the chemo,” Taylor said. I’ve been crocheting since I was 5 and knitting since I was 10 or 11, so it was an activity that helped pass the time that I didn’t have to actually look at.”

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So far, Taylor — who also spends her time painting, sewing and planting — has created nine baby baskets, but hopes to keep cranking out more.

“I marvel at Tavinya’s ability to think about others despite her own trials and circumstances,” Jones said in the release. “She made each baby item out of such love, selflessness and compassion — all while fighting cancer.”

Tavinya Taylor's gift baskets
| Credit: The Taylor Family

Taylor, who has been chronicling her cancer journey in an online journal, was initially supposed to finish her chemotherapy treatments by summer, but things didn’t go according to plan.

Still, she calls COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns somewhat of a “silver lining,” since it means she isn’t the only one missing school, sports and summer vacations.

Her family told the hospital the teen has been leaning on her faith and the support of her friends, family and church to push through.