Karam Auger, 61, of Hudson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Four years later, she learned the cancer had metastasized, spreading to her bones, brain and lungs. Treatments included brain surgery and radiation, and her doctors kept a close eye on a lung mass.
And while such events would be excuse enough to curl up in a ball of self-pity and sorrow, Karam Auger opted to ignore a growing list of things she could not do and focus on what she could.
A designer/decorator and seamstress specializing in custom-made window treatments, Karam Auger had run a thriving business for almost 20 years; five of them out of a Hudson boutique.
When cancer came back the second time, however, she sold the building and moved her business into a home showroom and workspace.
And though it continued to thrive, she was forced to close her doors for good when her health took another precipitous turn for the worse.
“I could not use my right side as well as I used to because of the brain tumor, and my hand coordination was not the same,” Karam Auger explained.
Cancer had also robbed her of the ability to perform everyday tasks such as driving, the ability to travel, socializing with friends or going out in the community since she was often left exhausted by chemotherapy treatments.
“You can’t do stairs, or sit long. When you have cancer, your life radically changes and you can’t do many of the things people take for granted,” said the feisty, personable Karam Auger.
Not willing to give up
Despite the limitations, she vowed to one day return to her craft. She says passing the time reading books, watching daytime television and just hanging around the house didn’t do it for her.
“During the past several years, the one thing I really missed was the sewing and creativity... I would look at the fabrics (in my studio) and think about what I could create with them,” she recalled.
What she came up with were aprons.
Their small size made them easier to sew than much larger window coverings. But when she sat down to sew again Karam Auger discovered she was not as fast as she once was.
“I used to be able to knock out an entire window treatment in an evening, but (when she returned to sewing) it would take me a day and a half to sew one apron,” she noted with a laugh.
What she did create were whimsical pieces that are not your grandmother’s utilitarian aprons.
They feature beading and fringe, tassels and sheer fabrics, vintage doilies and linens.
They gave her an outlet for working with her hands but more than that, she says, they took her mind off cancer.
“I would be lying on a table for 40 minutes having a bone scan and I would be thinking about aprons... it’s given me somewhere else for my mind to go.”
Her first efforts symbolized the ability to reclaim her life and she cherished them, simply hanging them up and looking at them for a while. When she was ready she thought about giving them to family and friends, or selling them for charity.
“I never wanted to make money with them. I would never get a price that would cover the amount of time I put into each apron,” Karam Auger said.
Palliative care home
A visit one day with the ladies running 2 Barn Owls in Hudson convinced Karam Auger to put her aprons on the market. A sale taking place this weekend, Saturday, July 7, will feature more than 30 of her creations.
Kels Deegan of 2 Barn Owls said she and her partners fell in love with the vintage inspired aprons the moment they saw them.
“We knew we wanted to help her showcase them and raise money,” she said, adding, “They’re truly original and sewn to perfection.”
All proceeds other than recouping any costs from materials will be donated to the Hudson Palliative Care Home.
And Karam Auger says she was also blown away by a recent offer from C & M Textiles in Montreal to provide her in the future with fabrics free of charge.
Some of the aprons are “quirkier than others” featuring such things as garter belts at the waist, or see-through fabrics. And based on demand she’s just begun a line of men’s aprons. Most will sell from $25 to $60.
For now, though her battle with cancer is ongoing, Karam Auger says she chooses to focus on the positive.
“You have lousy days for sure, but I’m having less of them now that I’m doing something I love. And it sure beats sitting around watching soap operas.”
Linda Karam Auger will be on hand to answer questions or speak with people during the sale of her aprons, taking place July 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2 Barn Owls, 422C, rue Main, Hudson (located in the barn behind the former Legs store). For more information, call 2 Barn Owls at 514 795-4361.