Story by: Karen A. Allen R.N., BSN, OCN on October 17, 2022
Four years ago, Sara Westerman was diagnosed with breast cancer. She chose treatment that included a double mastectomy with reconstruction.
While preparing for surgery, Sara discovered pillows designed for patients who have this surgery. Sara’s mom, Betty, is a retired home economics teacher and promptly created a version of the pillow for her daughter’s recovery.
“The pillow was a huge help on the car ride home from my surgery and during my post-surgery care,” Sara said. She learned that appropriate body position is very important post-surgery. Tissue expanders, which are placed in the chest to create more tissue for the reconstruction, can cause tenderness while healing.
Betty now makes and donates these recovery pillows for other patients.
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“My mom was my rock during my time of need,” Sara said. She wants caregivers to know how important they are during recovery. Sara said, “Caregivers really step up when those of us who are going through it are down. They help fit the puzzle pieces [of our lives] back together.”
Sara’s aunt also had breast cancer and was a source of information and advice. Sara was surprised to learn that her aunt had championed insurance coverage for mammograms and other breast care services, including reconstruction.
Sara has felt inspired by her mom and aunt. She now volunteers with a nonprofit organization that provides research funding for metastatic breast cancer treatment and provides patient support. Reaching out to other people going through a difficult time is an activity that lifts Sara up.
Sara enjoys delivering recovery pillows, and the staff at Norton Cancer Institute Resource Centers appreciate Sara and Betty’s thoughtfulness. Sara feels a bond with her care team at Norton Cancer Institute after their support throughout her treatment. She appreciates her doctor’s guidance in choosing the best care plan for herself and her family.
“Norton is a great community for me. My services, whether it is an exam, or the screening mammograms I had before my diagnosis, the staff has always been caring. My doctor is always watchful. They understand that I am an individual. I have gained friendships through these experiences,” Sara said.
“I guess you have to walk through the rain to see the rainbows.”
Karen A. Allen R.N., BSN, OCN, is an oncology nurse navigator at Norton Cancer Institute.
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