Friday night at the KT Tunstall concert, Tanner and I were lucky enough to stand next to Cherie Mathews, owner and founder of Healincomfort.com. A breast cancer survivor herself, Cherie designs and sells post-surgical friendly clothing for breast cancer survivors and also works hard raising awareness and promoting advocacy efforts for those affected by breast cancer (friends & family included). Tanner was completely smitten by her and talking to her in between sets kept us entertained to say the least. He was particularly impressed by her picture of herself posing with Joan Jett and a video she shared of her sister in one of The Cult's videos (her sister dated the lead singer for several years) and I appreciated the genuine interest she took in Tanner...an amazing kiddo who can often be misunderstood.
He LOVED the attention she showered on him and on the way home that night said in a somewhat disappointed voice, "We should have gotten her number so that we could see her again some time." I told him that she had given me her business card and he broke into a huge grin and said "Cool." He is such a social kid, but he has some social delays which...when coupled with communication issues...can often impede his desire to connect with other people. It warms my heart when people like Cherie take the time to get to know him and see the amazing boy I see inside him.
So, later as we talked about various things, we discovered we had a "cancer connection" (her being a breast cancer survivor and advocate and myself having worked for the American Cancer Society for almost 9 years; not to mention losing my mom to lung cancer and my grandmother to breast cancer). She gave me her card so I could look her up on facebook later and when I got home that night I checked out her website, healincomfort.com.
I instantly fell in love with the whole concept which is essentially designing and gifting specially designed post-surgical clothing for breast cancer patients. I remember flying up to help care for my grandmother after her mastectomy and how difficult it was for her to open her shirt and show me her scar and drainage tubes for the first time. I will never forget the look on her face as she looked up at me to gauge my reaction. Painted all over her face was a horrible mix of apology for the breast that was no longer there mixed with a seed of hope that I'd reassure her in some way that she hadn't changed in my eyes. Trying not to show the grief I felt for all she was going through, I looked her in the eyes while grabbing a washcloth to clean around her incision and said, "Wow, they did a great job, how does it feel?" I have no idea if those were the right words, but it broke the ice between us and I could feel her relax as I continued to bathe her and catch up on things. Losing a breast hadn't changed one thing about her in my eyes and that was what I wanted to impress upon her.
As I helped my grandfather care for her over the next week or two, I remember how frustrating it was for her to cope with the drains that often leaked and the difficulty she experienced trying to get dressed those first few weeks following surgery. I really think she was thankful to finally be done with the surgery. They had initially tried to save the breast and over a month's time kept pulling her back into the OR to get cleaner margins until they finally recommended a mastectomy. Afterwards, I really think she was ready to get on with living, but the frustration of dealing with the physical healing was a daily problem for her. I can definitely see where the clothing Cherie has designed could have made that whole process so much easier for her.
Check out her website. If you know someone facing surgery, buy them a shirt instead of flowers. If you don't know someone who needs a shirt, gift one to a breast cancer patient in your local area and provide that much needed "Spirit Jump" many patients need following surgery. If your life has been touched in some way by breast cancer, you'll want to check out her "Be Brave and Fight Like a Girl" shirts or "Support Crew" shirts (the support crew shirts can be personalized with "Team (name of breast cancer patient)"....what an awesome way for family and friends to show support!).
To Cherie: I was amazed to learn later that you and I share a birthday as well. I still struggle with not being able to see or hear from my mom and grandmother on my birthday...I don't have much family left really so many birthdays come and go without much hoopla, but I'm a big girl now..I can take it ;) I'd be lying though if I acted as if I didn't miss them when that day rolls around each year. To comfort myself, I like to think about my mom and grandma sitting up there in heaven, probably around a dining room table with a cup of coffee gossiping about all the trouble we are managing to get ourselves into and trying their best to orchestrate some good stuff for those they left behind. I hope you don't mind if I consider our serendipitous meeting at that concert a little "sign" from them that they are still around and definitely keeping tabs on those they love. I look forward to ordering a shirt from your website (can't decide which one...may have to get one of each lol) and getting to know you and your organization better. Thanks for taking your experience and channeling it into such a worthwhile effort!
To my readers: I'm sorry I've been derelict in my blogging duties, but I've had some health issues crop up in the last few weeks. I'll go into it later this week. I'll live, but have found some answers for why I've been migraining.
By the way...I stood on my feet for 5-6 hours STRAIGHT at this concert. We had an absolute blast and yeah...I ached everywhere the next day and had a migraine to boot, but I wouldn't have traded that day with Tanner for anything in the world! It was his first concert and my birthday...AWESOME SAUCE people!! Definitely could NOT have done this activity this time last year. What a difference a year makes :)