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Eileen McClelland

A Family’s Partnership with Perrywinkle’s Leads to Cancer Canknot Jewelry Line



A jewelry design from the Cancer Canknot line.

WHEN ERIC GILCRIS was diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma brain cancer in 2011 at age 29, he and his wife, Anna, were at first inclined to wonder, “Why us?”

Over time, though, and with better than expected results from treatment, they began to approach the situation with a different question, “Why not us?” In the years since his diagnosis, they’ve moved on with their lives — welcomed a second child into their family, wrote a children’s book and even designed a line of jewelry.

Says Anna, “We knew there had to have been a reason to be given something like this to battle at such a young age. We knew that there had to be a greater plan as to why Eric was dealt this deck of cards and was chosen to battle such a monstrous disease.”

They needed to find a way to tell their 3-year-old son about cancer, and so they thought about writing a children’s book for him and other young children struggling to understand the disease. It’s lighthearted and rhyming and called “Bear Hugging and Cancer Crushing.”

The couple also began to consider the power and symbolism of jewelry for cancer patients, cancer survivors and their families and friends, and came up with the concept of using the cancer ribbon symbol as the basis for a line of fine jewelry. They incorporated a knot into the ribbon design and called the line Cancer Canknot.

Such a line of jewelry, they reasoned, could convey a lot of meaning and information while money raised could benefit organizations involved in cancer research.


“You see someone and you know exactly what they are going through,” Ann says. “You don’t need to say anything and it can touch a lot of people.”

Anna and Eric then approached Perrywinkle’s Fine Jewelry in Burlington, VT, hoping to forge a partnership to make and sell the jewelry. Eric had shopped for Anna at Perriwinkle’s in the past and was impressed with the craftsmanship and customer service there.

Owner Perry Sporn was in turn impressed with their proposal.

“There are always people pitching things to us,” he says. “The difference here is the amazing story and amazing people behind it. We knew they were serious and were going to stay and work with us. It was an opportunity to have a partnership with great people.”

A launch party in November sold out the initial inventory, which is available in 14K gold and sterling silver. They’ve since restocked and it’s available exclusively at Perrywinkle’s and online.

“Everyone wants to feel good about something they are buying,” Sporn says. “The response here has been fantastic. Everyone has been touched by cancer one way or another.”


Adds Anna, “Three years ago, when he was diagnosed with brain cancer, we never would have thought this would be our lives. We’ve gotten handwritten notes from people, thanking us for what we’re doing. Our hope is that it does make a difference.”

Eric and Anna have learned through their own experience that Cancer Canknot:

  • Be more powerful than those who love and support you.
  • Ruin your outlook on life.
  • Break you.
  • Stop hugs or kisses.
  • Consume time.
  • Stop you from moving forward.
  • Take away the importance of family.
  • Keep you from being happy.
  • Take away love, hope and memories.

For more information about the jewelry and the family’s story, see

Another style from the Cancer Canknot line.


Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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