A COMFORT cushion handed to Warragul woman Paula Summerfield after a breast cancer operation led her to a life of full-time volunteering.
Above: Paula Summerfield helps women who have undergone breast cancer treatments get comfortable.
This article was first published in the 10 October 2014 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy now for even more news and entertainment.
Paula underwent radiotherapy and had a lump removed from her breast in 2002, after which a nurse handed her a cushion designed to make things more comfortable.
“A nurse came up and she gave me this cushion. I thought ‘I can sew, I can make some for the other ladies’,” Paula told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
She has since amassed a group of between 80 and 90 volunteers from across Gippsland who help her make breast cancer comfort cushions, as well as bags designed to help post-op.
“They give a bit of comfort, especially after the operation,” Paula said.
“Even when you’re going through the radiotherapy, because you get burnt so badly.
“Ladies will even use it for when they’re travelling in the car with the seatbelt because that gets really tight.”
The cushions are designed to help after both small and large operations.
“Some ladies, when they get their breast off, they need that comfort at night time, because you lie on it and find ‘oh, I haven’t got a boob there any more.'”
The group produces a massive number of cushions, which are sent to hospitals across Gippsland, Melbourne, and even in Queensland, with all interest driven by word of mouth.
The enthusiasm of the group is not entirely driven by personal experience – only around two people in the group have undergone a breast cancer operation.
Paula co-ordinates her massive group of volunteers, who work both in groups and alone.
“It is a full time job,” she said.
The group receives “heaps” of responses from people who receive the cushions, and often receives donations in return.
“Ladies post me a parcel, and sometimes they give me about four lots of material, and sometimes they give me wool, and we get cheques,”*Paula said.
“One lady just recently gave us some material and $100 cheque!
“We also get our money through the Country Women’s Association or Lions Club or Rotary Club, even op shops.
To raise further funding for the group, Paula will be holding the Breast Cancer Comfort Cushions High Tea fundraiser at the Warragul Downtowner on Pink Ribbon Day – 27 October 2014.
Last year a similar event raised over $6,000 for purchasing materials.
“We do use that money to go toward making more cushions,” Paula said.
“We are hoping to raise around $3,000 or more. We are hoping to attract 150 people, and have around 95 booked already.”
Anyone interested in attending the fundraiser, at which the organisation shows off what it is about, should contact the Downtowner on 5623 4520.
Paula also fundraises by attending markets, including the Warragul and Lardner Park Craft Markets, where she sells aprons shopping bags, kids’ bags, peg bags and more.
Unfortunately, Paula said demand for the cushions was increasing.
“We have noticed this year that the number has increased,” she said.
“It’s now almost 30 cushions per month, it used to be only 20. That’s one per day.
“It really has gone up this year.”
Paula said anyone interested in joining her network of volunteers, either as part of a group or working from home, is welcome to do so.
Contact details, links to social media accounts and other information about the group can be found at breastcancercushions.com.au.
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