Embroidery Library


Giving the Gift of Comfort

While recovering from surgery for breast cancer in 2002, Paula Summerfield in Victoria, Australia was handed a simple cushion to protect her wound as it healed. As a patient, she was grateful for this thoughtful and practical little gift. As a seamstress and embroiderer, she saw an opportunity to use her creative skills to bring comfort to other women in the same situation.

Now, just a few years later, Paula and her team of volunteers have donated cushion gift packages to thousands of other Australian women recovering from breast cancer surgery, through her Breast Cancer Comfort Cushions organization. Colorful fabrics, inspiring embroidery designs, and lots of love go into each one.

"Our Gift of Comfort is a small 'pick-me-up' that is presented free to women after they have undergone surgery," Paula says, "and from the letters of thanks we receive, the women all speak of lighting up their life during a dark and troublesome time."

The care package Paula has developed contains a collection of handmade items to care for a woman's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs after facing surgery for breast cancer. Each Gift of Comfort includes:

  • A cotton comfort cushion, which facilitates rest and sleep by cushioning and supporting the wound site in bed, aiding physical recovery. During recuperation, it is worn under a jacket, protecting the wound site from the car seat belt and other impacts.

  • A carry bag, which fits and transports x-rays to appointments.

  • A drainage bag, which holds the drainage bottles that many patients are left with after surgery.

  • A little gift bag filled with lavender that speaks of healing, along with an inspirational poem.

Paula's organization distributed about 1000 of these Gifts of Comfort in 2009 alone, and has donated about 3800 sets since the beginning of the program. Volunteers distribute the care packages to 17 area hospitals in Melbourne, Gippsland, and Geelong in the Australian state of Victoria. Across the continent, another group in Western Australia has been making and donating Gifts of Comfort too, and she's sent information and patterns to groups in Holland, Mexico, and South Africa to start their own programs.

Here are just a few of the thank-you comments sent to Paula from women who have received the Gifts of Comfort:

"I was so thrilled with mine and felt the need to repay and assist someone else to experience the joy of these delightful and lovingly made and so practical gifts."

"Thank you for such a beautiful, thoughtful gift, and being handmade made the gift even more warming to the soul just to know people do nice things through such hard times. It really lifted my spirits and was very comforting."

"Thank God for people like you whose thoughtfulness does so much to lift our spirits."

"[Thank you] for the gorgeous comfort cushion kit I received recently. It is a special blessing at a tough time in my life and has certainly made for much easier resting and sleeping."

"My sincere gratitude for your wonderful gift and for the emotional as well as physical support it has given me."

"I cannot express how touched I was to receive your comfort cushion. To think that people I have never met cared enough to help me through this testing time really warmed my heart."

Want to help? Embroidery Library has posted step-by-step instructions with photos to make these comfort cushions. This Butterfly of Hope embroidery design, a request from Paula, is one pretty option for embellishing your gifts of comfort; you could also try other awareness ribbon designs, inspiring butterflies, or anything else you like!

If you want to give gifts where there's not an established Breast Cancer Comfort Cushions program, Paula says, "The best way is to contact a breast care nurse and the oncology department of the hospitals in a particular area and ask if they are interested in giving one of these sets to their breast cancer patients. If so, a person can set up their own group, and enlist volunteer sewers to make the sets and distribute them to the hospitals."

Using her creative skills to craft these gifts for breast cancer patients has been a moving and joyful experience, Paula writes. "The reward is the feedback we receive from patients and breast care nurses of how the sets are received by the women after surgery," she says. "It has been a privilege to bring hope and comfort to many women who have had breast surgery."

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