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A significant number of these result in a mastectomy – a painful procedure both physically and emotionally.
Breast-cancer charities in many countries produce heart-shaped pillows, which are designed to fit comfortably under the arm, thus relieving pain around the surgical area after the operation. The pillows also provide emotional comfort: patients know they aren’t alone and others are thinking of their needs.
The relatively young Soroptimist Club Lisbon Caravela decided to launch this project in Portugal, first contacting the League against Cancer for advice, then approaching hospital oncology departments throughout the country. With fabric, stuffing and labels provided by commercial partners Lameirinho Textile, Maitex and Passamar, the club got to work cutting and sewing.
Three years and 4000 pillows later, partnerships have now been launched with a number of Portuguese NGOs, such as Porta do Mais, an association that brings African women and children to Europe for medical treatment. Porta do Mais’ patients report that producing heart pillows alleviates the boredom of long periods of inactivity and gives them the satisfaction of being able to ‘give something back’.