BELMAR, NJ — Fran Wilton of Belmar was at a quilt show when she saw a bolt of fabric that caught her attention — not for its pattern or design, but for the words that were simply scrolled in phrases across the soft pink cloth.

Each began the same, “Cancer Cannot …” followed by … “Shatter Hope,” “Cripple Love,” “Silence Courage” — powerful and poignant words that meant so much to Wilton, a two-time breast cancer survivor.

“I just had to get the fabric, not knowing what I would use it for,” said Wilton, who quilts as a hobby, along with her sister-in-law Margaret Wilton of Spring Lake, a four-time cancer survivor.

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It wasn’t long before she found a reason for the fabric. Belmar Cares — the breast cancer support group to which she belongs — was invited to a guided tour of Mary's Place by the Sea, a respite home in Ocean Grove for women with cancer.

There could be no better “house-warming” gift than a quilted wall hanging made from the fabric to bring to the seashore home, where women with cancer take a break from medical treatments and daily responsibilities to focus on healing the mind, body and soul.

“We didn’t have much time, but this was something we wanted to do,” Wilton said, referring to her sister, who gladly accepted the challenge.

Within several months, they created the quilt, designed with the phrases neatly arranged — row by row — into the patchwork’s pink, green and white tile-patterned fabric. At the top of the quilt are the words, “What Cancer Cannot Do” — a bold affirmation underscored by Mary’s Place co-founders Michele Gannon and Maria McKeon when they were presented with the gift during the Belmar Cares tour.

“Thank you to our dear friends at Belmar Cares ... for visiting our home and to your members Fran Wilton and Margaret Wilton for creating this beautiful wall hanging,” they wrote in a Facebook post with a photo marking the special occasion. “It is a great reminder of ‘What cancer cannot do!’ ”

As for the Wiltons, it was truly a team effort. “Margaret is the experienced quilter,” Wilton said, explaining that her sister-in-law picked up the hobby 25 years ago on her doctor’s advice when she learned she had cancer. “It would take me two years to make a quilt. She deserves the credit for getting the project done.”

About Mary’s Place by the Sea

Mary’s Place by the Sea is the nonprofit organization that operates a state-of-the-art, custom-built, 10-bedroom home in Ocean Grove, located one block from the beach, where guests benefit from integrative services that complement their treatment, including oncology massages, nutrition education, counseling, guided meditation, yoga and more, with all services at no cost to guests. To date, Mary’s Place has served nearly 9,000 women with cancer.

For more information on Mary's Place, visit

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