A labor of love
Volunteers fill need before patients know they have it
When a woman receives a breast cancer diagnosis, her thoughts are often consumed with processing the news and taking initial steps to treatment — not with postoperative care.
Anticipating their needs, dedicated Via Christi Clinic employees give of their time to create handmade necessities to help breast cancer patients on their journey. The volunteers — who work at locations across Wichita — sew pillows, seatbelt covers, ice pack covers and other items in whimsical patterns to offer comfort and peace when the women need it the most. These gifts are presented to patients at the hospital or Ambulatory Surgery Center.
“Instead of having to figure out their post-surgical care, they can recuperate and adjust to life,” says Terri Leschuk, nurse navigator for Via Christi Clinic’s Breast Care Services.
“It meant so much to me,” says breast cancer survivor Mandi Reddig. “Your life is turning upside down. You don’t know what to expect; you don’t know what you need. The care package made me feel like people cared about me and I wasn’t alone.”
Another survivor wrote a thank-you note saying, “The items were so useful and I didn’t even know I needed them. They are still a psychological booster that people care.”
Terri, along with Brenda Gibson, a long-time clinic employee and active volunteer, started the program in 2009 and invited employees to sew the postoperative care items. Brenda created patterns and instructions so the ladies can sew the items in their own homes. Her mother-in-law, Jean Gibson, also volunteers. She lost two brothers and three sisters to cancer. Many in the group have been touched by cancer and they want to help others on their journey.
"If we can make a difference and make someone’s life a little easier, we all want to do that,” Brenda says.
Volunteers create these special post-surgery gift items to give to as many as 120 women who undergo breast cancer treatment through Via Christi Breast Care Services annually.
DRAINAGE BAG POUCH
Worn around the neck to hold post-surgery drainage collector.
Small square fits on the bra strap to protect the area of the porta-cath incision, high on the chest.
Padded square to protect the breast incision from clothing.
ICE PACK COVER
Protects skin from direct contact with the ice pack.
Placed under the arm to protect where lymph nodes were removed.
SEAT BELT COVER
Protects the sensitive post-surgery area from the rubbing of a seatbelt.
Interested in volunteering? Call Brenda at 316-719-1234.