Thursday, July 5, 2012

Scrap Busting with Post Mastectomy Pillows


A dear friend of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. About three weeks ago she had a mastectomy which included removal of lymph nodes. I did not know this, but evidently most of the post operative pain comes from removal of the lymph nodes – there are many nerves in that area.

My friend was given a small pillow to wear under her seat belt. (She now has a million appointments - I had no idea that fighting breast cancer is such a full time job.)

This seat belt pillow was made from a brightly colored quilting cotton with giant ladybugs. This friend has a similar aesthetic to mine and, while she appreciated the utility of the pillow, the fabric was bumming her out, especially since it is something she uses in public.

When she mentioned the existence of this pillow to me, I started researching these on the internet. I learned that there is a whole category of pillow called Comfort Pillows and they come in different shapes for different purposes. This article on about.com is helpful.

There seem to be several basic shapes: heart, crescent, rectangular, and something called a "dog bone". The crescent- and heart-shaped pillows often include ribbons so they can be tied onto the shoulder. I sent her several pictures so she could give me some guidance on what would be most useful.

My friend thought that the crescent shape would be good for sleeping but without the ribbons - she envisioned becoming entangled.

I made her two pillows. I also provided her with some black minky to cover said ladybugs on the seat belt pillow.

The first pillow used a pattern provided by Husqvarna Viking – the PDF of the pattern and instructions can be downloaded for free here.

For this pillow, I used scraps of a stretch woven cotton left over from my Hexagonal Tablecloth skirt. I stuffed this one fairly tightly.


Then, just today on Stitcher's Guild, someone posted another free pattern for a crescent shaped post-mastectomy pillow. What perfect timing!

The PDF instructions for this pattern, from emlibrary, can be downloaded for free here. The PDF of the pattern itself can be downloaded for free here.

I made this pillow using more scraps of the same sweater knit I used for several travel accessories for DD2. (I still have lots of scraps left. :) ) I stuffed this one more lightly.


These were both very quick to sew and stuff. I plan to deliver them tomorrow. I am eager to hear which shape and stuffing density she prefers. I will report back on this post.

47 comments:

  1. What a good friend you are, Shams!

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  2. My heart goes out to your friend and I send her good wishes and hopeful thoughts on her journey. You are a wonderful friend to think of how you can bring her some comfort while she deals with this. Please let us all know of what you both discover to be the most effective in pillowing so that we might take that information to help those around us who may be experiencing the same issues.

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    1. Thanks, Marcy. I definitely plan to share what I learn, to help others dealing with this.

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  3. Shams, I am always cruising the interwebz for charity sewing patterns & tutorials - these are some that I hadn't seen yet, so thank you so much for posting them!!!

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    1. You are welcome, Eileen. Check back - I will post updates as I learn more.

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  4. We can all learn more about this. We think of the obvious, but never the must-needed practical day-to-day requirements that you can't just go out and buy. Your friend will value these...

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    1. Thanks, Doobee. You are so right - this is new territory for my friend and for me. I told her I can whip up more pillows if she needs them. She has to really organize and position various pillows in order to sleep every night. That's a big reason I experimented with density of stuffing. Her seatbelt pillow is very squishy, and she likes that for that purpose, but she wanted more density for sleeping pillows.

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  5. Shams that's great. I sewed a couple of similar cushions recently too. Apparently they do give a lot of comfort.

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    1. If you have good patterns/tips, please share, Dilliander. :)

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  6. What a nurturing gift to give a friend in this situation! I am sure she will appreciate it on all levels.

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  7. I made these little pillows for a number of years for the Cancer Society here in NZ. Firmer stuffed ones were preferred with short straps which secured the pillow over the shoulder and supported side of body when sleeping. Was amazed to be asked to make them in stronger colours for men!!

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    1. That's good to know, Sheila. Men get breast cancer, too, though it's more rare.

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  8. Blessings for both you and your friend during this healing time :)

    And thank you so much for sharing this info - I love it! It seems like a quick and easy way to whittle down the scrap bin (which I now feel SO justified for having) ;-)

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    1. Thanks for your healing thoughts, my friend!

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  9. Very cool, I wonder if the cancer center in my work facility provides these, I think they should.....sans ladybugs.

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    1. lol. I know that some women would be cheered by ladybugs. My friend loves whimsy, but her whimsy runs to polka dots and she prefers blacks, greys, or browns.

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  10. Very thoughtful sewing by a wonderful friend!

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  11. You are a good friend and a good sewing blogger for compiling all this great information in one post. What a wonderful way to use up our fabric stash.

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    1. Thanks, Artemesia, it's so nice to find a good way to use some of my extensive scrap collection.

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  12. Oh Shams - you are sooo thoughtful. What a hard time for your friend. I hope the diagnosis was early, and her treatment goes well. Such a hard time, and having good friends is what will help pull her thru. She is lucky to have you i n her life!!

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  13. These are wonderful! Wish I'd known about these years and years ago. (or may-be the idea did not exist?)

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  14. If you will PM me through Stitcher's Guild, I will mail you a pattern which our ASG group uses. We use pink fleece w/breast cancer logo on it - have made and given to three local hospitals (I am suspicious they don't give them), but I keep a stash at my home and have lost count the amount I have given. This is nothing to sneeze at and you are a wonderful friend to start this. More, if you get in touch with me.........Lydia (from Stitcher's Guild) This will come through as anonymous.

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    1. Why would they possibly want to hang on to them? The demand so far outstrips the supply for all cancer support products that I'm sure they're giving them out.

      If you have any doubts, contact your local branch of the American Cancer Society and let them distribute them.

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    2. I sent you a PM, Lydia!

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  15. What a lovely gesture of kindness, not to mention a gift that will be useful and provide comfort for your dear friend. It will certainly brighten her spirits and ease her pain :)

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  16. What a great friend you are! Years ago, when a friend of mine had cancer she ended up with almost no hair! So I made her hats - actually a beret style from a McCalls pattern I had. I made them from fleece - different weights and in different colors. It was the one thing that I could do for her. She was thrilled to wear them and I was happy that in some small way I had helped her through a very difficult time.

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    1. I ordered a hat pattern off ebay yesterday, sewforward. She will need a few hats for her 6 months of chemo.

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  17. You are fabulous. What a wonderful gesture of friendship, and thanks for sharing this information.

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  18. What a lovely way to help your friend.

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  19. I had a very good friend who fought breast cancer. It was horrible watching her go through the ordeal. Sadly she lost her battle at only 33 years old. I've never really gotten over her loss. I don't think we ever do. You are such a great friend. I know your friend appreciates what you are doing to comfort her. Sending up prayers for her.

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  20. What a wonderfully thoughtful gift.

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  21. I've seen women with mastectomy pillows. My heart always aches for them. You are such a good friend, and she will always cherish you for doing such a beautiful thing for her.

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  22. Free patterns for chemo hats:
    http://www.carolkimball.net/chemo/

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    1. Thanks, Carol. Some nice hats on your site!

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  23. Thanks to everyone who expressed such kind thoughts and well wishes. My friend is strong (it's one of her defining characteristics) and very positive.

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  24. shams, I have many hat patterns-let me know if you'd like me to send them to you. My thoughts and prayers go out to your friend.

    Mary

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  25. Our sewing guild makes sets of these for a local hospital. We make them with matching xray bags and lots of caps (not matching)

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  26. How wonderful -- I hope your friend is doing well.

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  27. ASG made anti-ouch pouches for their 2008 community service project. You can download the freebie directions at www.asg.org under the "Community Service" tab. They look like tote bags when worn, and they have an opening so the wearer can adjust the stuffing to her comfort level.

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  28. I just made two crescent pillows with shoulder straps for a young lady who will have a double radical mastectomy next week. Because she is states away, I put 7" zippers in the bottom of each so she can adjust the stuffing to her comfort level. I did not make them pink. Several of my friends who have had mastectomies told me to use any color other than pink. They also told me to be sure it's cotton for comfort. After my friend recovers, she can pass the pillows down to her little girls to use as pajama bags.

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    1. These are all brilliant ideas, Vicki! Thanks so much for sharing them! (And "hear hear" on the "not pink".)

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  29. I had a mastectomy 4 weeks ago. I was blessed with one of these pillows waiting for me in my hospital room. Ladies from the local Lutheran Church make them and bring them to the hospital to give to mastectomy patients. What a wonderful way to show God's love!

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