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‘Crafty’ FBC Pelham members help cancer patients keep port-a-cath area safecomment (0)

June 3, 2010

By Kathy Dean

When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, Abbey Thompson wanted to bring meals to her, clean her house, drive her to the many doctor’s appointments, sit with her following surgeries and just spend time together each day.

But she couldn’t.

Thompson’s mother, Jeanne Chenault, lived more than two hours away in Florence, and she had family responsibilities with three young children in Pelham.

So Chenault, a member of First United Methodist Church in Florence, came up with a way they could both find comfort in the situation and founded a ministry in the process.

It is the Comfort Now Protect-A-Port, a small rectangular pillow with Velcro straps designed to wrap around the shoulder strap of a seatbelt, cushioning the area near the collarbone where a port-a-cath is installed beneath the skin to deliver medication for people facing rounds of chemotherapy.

“I guess you could say it is an invention, but I call it a gift,” Chenault said. “God gave me this inspiration, this idea, and the name. This little pillow would give comfort to a person now and also give the hope that they will not always need the pillow, that they will recover and then pass the pillow on.”

She said God gave her the idea for the pillow as she was walking to her car and dreading the ride home following a visit to her surgeon. The site of the port was more painful than her bilateral mastectomy, especially during a car ride when the seatbelt would rub and press against the port.

Chenault drew a pattern for the pillow and, with the help of a co-worker who could sew, designed several prototypes before finding the right shape and amount of stuffing to sit comfortably over the port and protect the site from the seatbelt. With the help of a sewing group from Florence Boulevard Church of Christ, the first pillows were made from donated fabric.

Thompson, a member of First Baptist Church, Pelham, enlisted the help of Barbara Moore, whose husband is the associate pastor in charge of senior adult ministry. Moore took the idea to the Sonshine Club, a senior adult group at the church that meets monthly for lunch and fellowship. In October 2009, the Crafty Chicks, another church group of primarily senior adults, took over the project.

The women meet every Monday at First, Pelham, for two hours to work on individual and group projects, including the pillows. They bring sewing machines from home and set up an assembly line, sewing and stuffing the pillows.

Thompson packages pillows made by both groups with turbans and hand-painted scarfs provided by the Church of Christ group, an inspirational poem, a story about the creation of the pillows, her mother’s story and Psalm 18:2. A sticker on the outside of the package reads, “To God be the Glory, Psalm 115:1, God blesses things great and small.”

Children’s pillows designed for a car seat are packaged with a pink or blue teddy bear and suckers.

Thompson and her mother pray over each pillow, asking blessings on the recipient. She estimates between 500 and 700 pillows have been made and given away.

Anne Murphy, a member of the Crafty Chicks who is a former radiation and oncology nurse and a cancer survivor, said it is wonderful to be of service to others and give them something that will bring some comfort. “You may never meet [the people who receive the pillows], but still you think about them. And you hope they do well,” she said.

Those making the pillows receive something in return, Moore pointed out.

“You have such a feeling of completeness when it’s done. You know it’s going to help somebody,” she said.

While some people have urged her to sell the pillows, she said that’s not what you do with a gift from God.

“These are not meant to be sold. They are meant to be shared,” Chenault said.

For more information, visit the Facebook page for Comfort Now Protect-A-Port kits, e-mail Thompson at hndbagrep@aol.com or Chenault at msfundirector@comcast.net or call First, Pelham, at 205-664-0237.

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