Date: 1/6/2009

Small Comfort’s in the Bag for Breast Cancer Patients at Women’s Diagnostic Centers of Community Healthcare System

American Sewing Guild member Flo Schneider of Valparaiso (left) adjusts the shoulder strap on the “Anti-Ouch Pouch” being demonstrated by (right) Suzanne Ruiz, RN, MS, NP-C, certified Breast Health Navigator at the Women’s Diagnostic Center in Munster.

MUNSTER — Breast cancer patients undergoing treatment at the Women’s Diagnostic Centers of Community Healthcare System each take home a little bit of comfort, packaged neatly into one convenient tote. The “Anti-Ouch Pouch” is a wedge-shaped pillow with an adjustable shoulder strap. Breast cancer survivor Deon Maas intentionally designed it to resemble a tote bag so that it can be used inconspicuously in public.

This soft pillow is designed to be worn snugly against the underarm to cushion the area after breast surgery. The wedge shape gently holds the arm away from the body when the user is standing. The strap holds the pillow in place without having to use sore arm muscles to “clutch” it. The strap is adjustable and the fiberfill amount may be adjusted via the overlapped opening to provide maximum comfort.

“We’ve been distributing the Anti-Ouch Pouch to our patients who come in for needle localizations over the past six months and the feedback has been very positive,” said Suzanne Ruiz, RN, MS, NP-C, certified Breast Health Navigator at Community Hospital in Munster.

In her role as Breast Health Navigator, Ruiz helps patients understand their treatment options and guides them along their journey through the healthcare system. She is the main contact for these patients who undergo needle biopsies and other surgeries, including mastectomies, all the way through recovery.

The pillow originally was introduced to the Women’s Diagnostic Centers at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System: Community Hospital in Munster and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart and, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago by Flo Schneider of Valparaiso. Schneider is a member of the American Sewing Guild (ASG), the non-profit organization from which the project stems.

The “Anti-Ouch Pouch” by Maas is dedicated to her mother, Doris Lock, who taught her to sew. Both women are breast cancer survivors and members of the American Sewing Guild. In the fall of 2005, Maas herself was recovering from a mastectomy. Although she tried holding a small pillow to ease the painful area under her arm, she disliked the fact that the pillow kept one of her hands occupied at all times. It prevented her from getting back to the activities she loved, especially sewing. Right away, the creative wheels in Maas’ head began to turn. She combined her ingenuity with her sewing talent and came up with a smart, stylish solution: The Anti-Ouch Pouch.

Inspired to share her great invention on a wider scale, Maas got together with the American Sewing Guild. Chosen as its nationwide service project for 2008, ASG members, including Schneider, have been working hard to not only create the pouches, but distribute them as well.

ASG is a nonprofit 501(C)(3) with more than 20,000 members and 130 chapters across the nation. It is driven by the volunteer power of its membership who sponsor local special events, community service projects, membership drives, fashion shows, produce local newsletters, establish educational programs, run Neighborhood Groups and much more.