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The Pink Pillow Project: Providing comfort to breast cancer patients

Oct 7, 2015 | Entertainment, Events, Lifestyles

By Lauren Kirchmyer

Hearing your doctor say you have cancer is not an easy set of words to take in … and that’s only the start of the long journey ahead. It not only affects you, but it affects your family, friends, loved ones.

Nancy Kielar went through those words not once, but twice. Her first breast cancer surgery took place in 2001. On the tenth anniversary of her first diagnosis – ten years of living cancer free -her doctor said her mammogram came back showing a second occurrence of the disease. Kielar received comfort from her loved ones, including her husband and two children, but the surgery she experienced after her first diagnosis included a painful and uncomfortable recovery no amount of love could fix.

The surgery involved removing lymph nodes from Kielar’s armpits, a common surgery for those who have breast cancer. Some of her friends gave her pillows to help her find comfort during her difficult time, but she found some pillows to be too hard, others to be too soft. Suddenly she found the perfect pillow, one that formed to her body positions.

Kielar shared her discovery with other friends and loved ones experiencing the post-surgery pain and discomfort, and they were grateful for her thoughtfulness and the comfort her pillows provided during an uncomfortable time.

One night, Kielar’s friend Lisa Smith, who lost her mother to breast cancer in 1989, suggested to Kielar to donate these pillows at a larger scale. This is how The Pink Pillow Project, a non-profit 501c3, was born.

Pink Pillow Project 1

According to The Pink Pillow Project website, the all-volunteer organization is dedicated to giving newly diagnosed individuals a pillow that will aid in their post-surgical recovery.

“It’s just a pillow, but it’s the right pillow at the right time and people appreciate it,” Kielar said.

Currently the pillows are distributed to all of the hospitals in the Catholic Health System, Millard Fillmore Suburban, Roswell Park, ECMC, to the breast surgeons at Windsong/CCS Oncology as well as to those who place a request through The Pink Pillow Project’s website. Over 2,500 pillows have been distributed since the organization began in December 2013.

“Sometimes after a crazy day at work I’ll go to the P.O. Box and I’ll find a notecard from somebody thanking us for the pillow,” Kielar said. “It makes my day.”

“Thank you for making this burden a little lighter,” one recipient said. “This is the most comfortable pillow and using it has given me the first comfort since my surgery for breast cancer,” said another.

Pink Pillow 2

One of the most memorable notes however came from a man. The disease took his wife’s life too soon; she was only in her fifties. “He said the only thing that provided her comfort was her pillow,” Kielar shared. “I was so touched. Whenever a husband or a son requests a pillow it pulls at my heartstrings. The whole family is affected. They’re trying to help their wives and mothers, they’re up in the middle of the night trying to help their loved ones find comfort. It’s so darn sweet.”

Besides the pillows, Kielar found the well-known cliche “laughter is the best medicine” to be true. Wanting to raise money for The Pink Pillow Project during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Kielar and Smith decided to put together a comedy night fundraiser.

The second annual “Laughter is STILL the Best Medicine” fundraiser will take place on Friday, Oct. 23 at the Historic Hamburg Palace Theatre, 31 Buffalo St., Hamburg. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show – featuring comedy by Rob Lederman and friends as well as music by the Gutter Prophets – starts at 8 p.m.

“Rob is hilarious,” Kielar said. “Rob’s Comedy Playhouse was also just named one of the top 10 comedy clubs in the country, and we have him at our event!”

The event also includes a 50/50 raffle, basket raffle and live auction. Tickets are $25 presale and $30 at the door. Tickets include show admission and a chance at the door prize. A cash bar and free parking will be available. The money raised at the fundraiser will go towards the purchase and distribution of the much appreciated pillows.

To learn more about “Laughter is STILL the best medicine” or to see how you or a loved one can get involved with The Pink Pillow Project, visit thepinkpillowproject.com.

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