These pillows are much more than cloth and cotton.
Over the course of two weeks, a team of volunteers at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Hemingway spent countless hours creating handmade post-surgical pillows for breast cancer patients receiving care through the Tidelands Health Cancer Care Network. The small, specially shaped pillows can play an outsized role reducing pain and discomfort among women healing from breast surgery.
For Kimberly Baker, who proposed the idea to the church, creation of the pillows was personal. It was an opportunity to honor her aunt Amanda Cribb, a fellow Hemingway resident who had recently battled breast cancer, and to offer support for others now facing the disease.
“It just hit home for me that this would be the perfect thing we can do in her honor,” Baker said. “I was very emotional because we were doing it for my aunt.”
The idea blossomed after Baker saw a Facebook post expressing a need for the pillows. The pillows provide padding that allows a woman to keep her arm and seat belt off of incisions made during breast surgery.
Before long, Baker placed a request for materials in the church bulletin.
The goal was to create 100 pillows during the church’s weeklong Vacation Bible School in July, which attracts about 20 to 25 children from the church and another 60 to 65 from the community. Adults would cut, iron and sew materials for the pillow cases, and children at VBS would do the stuffing.
The outpouring of support from within the church was tremendous. Volunteers and VBS students created 212 pillows, more than double the original goal. VBS participants hugged and prayed over each completed pillow. Small patches with Bible passages were ironed onto the first 100, exhausting the available supply.
“It was just overwhelming and so heart-warming to watch all these little hands stuff the pillows,” said Cribb, now a breast cancer survivor. “We just wanted the women struggling with breast cancer to know that we are thinking of them.”
Cribb, who diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2017, underwent radiation therapy and two surgeries to combat the disease.
Leading her care was a multidisciplinary team of veteran specialists including breast surgeon Dr. Craig Brackett and oncologist Dr. Catie Burbage. Radiation therapy was provided by the team at MUSC Health Tidelands Health Radiation Therapy Center.
“My doctors were the very best. They let me know they had me in their hands,” Cribb said. “They are the most nurturing and caring group of professionals I’ve ever met. They demanded my attention and that I trust them, and I did right away.”
Facing breast cancer can be a lonely experience, Cribb said, and it’s easy to withdraw into yourself. If nothing else, she hopes the pillows offer support to the breast cancer patients who receive them.
“We want the women to realize we are with them – we don’t want them to feel like they are alone,” she said. “I hope these pillows offer some kind of comfort and reassurance to them.”
Sabrina Johnson, a breast health navigator with the Tidelands Health Cancer Care Network, posted the request for help with post-surgical pillows on Facebook. She said the response was tremendous.
In total, the health system received 224 pillows — 212 from Pleasant Hill Baptist Church and another dozen from Johnson’s family and friends.
“I am extremely grateful and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from my family, friends and the community,” Johnson said. “Cancer patients worry about many aspects of treatment, and to have a donation like this, to be able to remove just one extra expense and burden, is a huge gift to them.”