Many of you already know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Many of you also already know someone who has fought or is currently fighting breast cancer. For the October Sew Goodness spotlight I want to share a couple of simple service ideas to bring comfort by sewing for breast cancer patients who are in that fight. Also a couple of great fundraiser and awareness campaigns from By Annies and the Fat Quarter Shop.
First of all, if you are over 40, get a mammogram. I have multiple friends my age (mid 40’s) diagnosed recently – including 2 more just recently – and found the cancer because they got a mammogram. And because they did they’re still here, being moms to their kids and living busy lives, because they caught the cancer early. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but early detection does make a difference. I’m grateful to those women who have inspired me to make mammograms a yearly habit.
I know they’re not the funnest thing you’ve ever done. But we’re big girls and it’s totally worth the peace of mind to just do it. TOTALLY.
Last year’s mammogram experience gave me knew appreciation and a sliver of a taste for what a diagnosis might be like. I went for my yearly mammogram last spring and got a call back later that day, that they’d seen something suspicious and wanted me to come back for more a closer ultrasound in 2 weeks.
Those 2 weeks were torturous. Luckily the second ultrasound didn’t show anything and I was given a clean bill of health. But the worry and stress of those 2 weeks gave me new understanding and empathy – in the smallest of ways – for anyone who has received a diagnosis of cancer.
4 years ago my friend Sachiko was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sachiko has shared her breast cancer journey on her blog Tea Rose Home. Watching her go through this experience was another rude reminder that this disease is relentless. Sachiko’s attitude in this set back has been inspiring. And she has shared a simple way that you can help women with breast cancer – particularly those who must undergo a mastectomy.
These simple heart shaped pillows are made to fit under the armpit to provide relief while healing after a mastectomy. Sachiko received one from her oncologist’s office and decided to make more to donate in return. She has shared a simple pattern to make them. You can donate them locally to an oncologist’s office near you. Or ask a friend who has battled for other local resources that provide comfort to women with breast cancer.
Riley Blake has also put together a video tutorial for making these post-breast-cancer-surgery pillows using Sachiko’s pattern.
Riley Blake Designs has a current fabric collection called Hope in Bloom and will donate proceeds to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Another friend to go through this journey is Andy Knowlton of A Bright Corner.
Andy shares more about her experience with Breast Cancer as well as this sweet Heartstrings Quilt Block Tutorial.
By Annie’s is hosting their annual Sew Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Initiative with lots of information, fundraisers, and a blog tour with lots of free patterns, etc running through the whole month of October.
By Annie also has a free pattern for this Bosom Buddy seat belt cover which spreads out the seatbelt pressure across the chest or abdomen while recovering from any surgery.
The Fat Quarter Shop is also sharing an awareness campaign with a Support Group Quilt or Stitch Along featuring a clever pattern by Lori Holt whose own mother battled Breast Cancer. You can read more about the Fat Quarter Shop awareness campaign and stitch-along here.
Post Masectomy Camisole Pattern
Melissa from Melly Sews has another meaningful way to help someone recovering from a mastectomy (or any other abdominal surgery). On her blog she shares a pattern and a video tutorial for a post-mastectomy camisole. These are made specifically to avoid having to raise your arms to put on as well as accommodate post-surgery drains.
These too can be donated locally – or chances are you know someone affected with breast cancer and they will gladly point you in the direction of an oncologist’s office or Breast Cancer Research Center who can put them in the hands of someone who will not only be grateful for the useful item, but also for the thoughtful person who took the time to hand make something to provide comfort and love.
Or send them to The Blessing Box Project. This group sends care packages of a mastectomy pillow and drain shirt to anyone who requests them. You can also find them through Facebook.
Know of other causes looking for contributions to aid those fighting breast cancer? Please share them in the comments!
Looking for other causes you can help sew for? You can find a list of causes in need on the Sew Goodness page.
Barbara Esposito, TheQuiltedB
Hi Amy – sadly this article is very timely as a friend of a friend is scheduled for a double mastectomy in a few weeks. Thank you for sharing, for speaking up, and for the patterns. I am off to sew!
Great ideas, Amy — thanks for sharing them! One of my local guilds makes the heart pillows as one of our outreach projects, but I had not heard of the camisoles. I can definitely see the need for those.
Yes to mammograms, AND know your risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Knowbrca.org has a quick assessment you can take. I was diagnosed at 39 and discovered I carry the brca2 mutation. I didn’t know to get tested for it until I was already diagnosed.
Another sewing idea: a simple robe or kimono with pockets on the inside to hold drains. Adding pockets to the inside of a loose tank or top would also work. I received a scarf with pockets for the drains, but it was clumsy. A kimono would have been perfect!
Thank you for this post. I had a double mastectomy 2 years ago due to invasive mammary cancer at the age of 50. I chose reconstruction. The agony of the diagnosis and waiting for confirmation were unreal but I survived !!
Adding pockets to hold and hide the drains (I had drains for 3 weeks) would be very beneficial. I wore a button up pj top. And if I had a dr appointment I wore a loose stretchy boat neck that could be slipped down and not up.
I have decided no to mammograms after lots of research and reading. (I’ve had two already, so it’s not a complete no) I know it’s a personal choice but it’s one I am very comfortable with. As always, there are at least two sides to every issue. If you are on the fence about starting or continuing mammograms I would suggest gathering information about false positives and absolute risk vs. relative risk. I don’t want to present statistics here because that seems manipulative, but I was surprised at what I found and perhaps you would be too. The best recommendation I read is that it is better to focus on healthy living to prevent cancer than to focus on screening. So if you have decided yes to mammograms, then perhaps you can also give attention to reducing your risks. Best wishes to those of you who have suffered.
I’m with you! Instead, a harmless and cheaper option is thermography! It can detect abnormalities years earlier than a mammogram and does not involve pressure that can pop a tumor or radiation.
A screening mammogram saved my life, would rather have a biopsy that returns negative than not find cancer. My cancer was too small to palpate . I would encourage screening as well as healthy lifestyles.
A mammogram saved my life 10 years ago and I haven’t missed one since. During my recovery after a mastectomy someone gave me a little handmade pillow that was covered in a silky fabric and I used it for lots of things. Covering my port so the seatbelt wouldn’t irritate it while I was driving was the best discovery. I took it to every chemo treatment sort of like a stuffed animal and it was soothing.
What a wonderful post. I am now an 18 year survivor as of October 16th. In 2003 I has an appointment each week of October beginning with my routine mammogram. I am so lucky and for years volunteered for the cause. Each time we share with other women we are sharing a special blessing. Other women have not been as lucky as me and three of my six sisters. While we do not have the gene that passes along this dreaded disease, it doesn’t mean that our daughters, other sisters or friends should be complacent. Mammograms do save lives and so does paying attention to changes in your breast tissue. I’m alive because of early detection.
Thank you SO much for sharing your experience, Mardell. I’m so grateful your outcome was a good one – and so wonderful of you to volunteer to support this community. xo
Pamela Meyers Arbour
I made my friend a small one like that and a larger one and sent them to her the week before her first surgery. She has had a long hard year and a half with multiple surgeries and she recently sent me a picture of her using her large heart pillow. She says they are the best gift she has ever received.
Oh that is so meaningful. xo
Another site for breast cancer sewing projects, including a larger heart pillow as well as some head coverings for those going through chemo is at: https://seekatesew.com/category/sew4good/
She has patterns also. My aunt had breast cancer, my mom had ovarian cancer but thank the Lord, me and my sisters do not. And I don’t have the gene either. That’s good news for my daughters
Excellent! Thank you so much for sharing that resource. So sorry to hear about your mom and aunt. Grateful that you and your daughters don’t have the gene. 🙏❤