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Designing Armor For Breast Cancer Patients – Cherie Mathews’ War (reprint from October 2016)
Cancer crusader and entrepreneur Cherie Mathews suits up every day—black leather, chains, red lipstick, and spiked hair—taking the fight to the front lines when it comes to changing how women confront a diagnosis, surgery, and recovery with her company healincomfort.com.
“My whole point in bringing rock and roll to breast cancer is because I’m so sick of tutus and ribbons,” says Cherie. “This isn’t fun and giggly… My friends are puking in toilets right now trying to survive another day.”
Cherie’s drive and fierce compassion are contagious—just ask her 73,000 Twitter followers and women with whom she personally consults after they receive a positive cancer diagnosis. She says it’s all thanks to her “God moment” after a double mastectomy at age 40.
What Breast Cancer Patients Experience
It started with Cherie’s “drive-through mastectomy” discharge only five hours post-surgery. She was instructed to bring one of her husband’s shirts as she would need loose clothing with front closures and shoe laces to the hospital. Cherie brought a hoodie. The post-op nurse admonished her saying it wasn’t the right attire.
“I’m in trouble for bringing the wrong recovery equipment?” she asked in disbelief. The nurse simply replied, “Women have always just suffered in silence.”
Next, Cherie asked what to do with the two surgical drains that were sewn into her body and needed to be changed three times a day. She was told to safety pin them to her shirt for the next two to four weeks. When the nurse moved her arms into the sleeves, the pain was so excruciating that Cherie threw up and left the hospital in a puke-stained hoodie. She was humiliated and furious.
Arriving home wasn’t much easier. “For me, personally, it was the shock and horror of being mutilated. What you see in the mirror takes your breath away,” she explains. In spite of feeling broken, she didn’t want her kids to see a scarred and frightened mother. “I went outside for my first walk after surgery, and I saw my shadow on the sidewalk. Unlike the mirror that reminded me of all the things that were wrong, my shadow reminded me of all the things that were right! I was alive and still able to cast a shadow on this earth.”
When Anger Turns To Action
Providence and her Blackfoot Indian fighting blood inspired the concept and patent-pending design of the Healincomfort® (HIC) shirt. Within 24 hours of telling friends about the concept, Fox News called Cherie for an interview. Cherie failed home economics in school for stapling a hem (it was fast!), but velcro’d together a sample for the segment. She pledged to make shirts for 100 patients.
Since 2010, HIC was approved for two patents, has helped 10,000 people with the Healincomfort recovery shirt and just ordered 5,600 shirts. HIC was a 2016 Women’s Way Awards Winner, Top 15 finalist for the SBA InnovateHER Award, and earned awards from other notable state and national entities.
Her vision for the post-op top: Become as common as a sling. Ultimately, the goal is to change post-operative policy on a national scale and ensure that every woman is sent home with an HIC shirt to ease the reduced mobility and discomfort as a result of a mastectomy, and allow them to heal in comfort and dignity.
Cherie’s just getting started. “I’ve got a picture of a man who had open-heart surgery with a blue HIC shirt with a girl logo on it. So, how do we bring dignity to other surgeries?” she questions. By going black, of course! HIC will help military heroes who are recovering from upper-body trauma, so Cherie is seeing to it that new versions (color and design) will be available.
Being an entrepreneur is a never-ending process and takes what she calls an Angel Team, consisting of business, health, and entertainment movers and shakers.
Cherie’s membership in EBW2020 is a key to her expanded aspirations for the company. “They have raised the bar for my entrepreneurial journey. I mean RAISED the bar. The ceiling is gone. I want to go global with this.”
No matter what your health battle, Cherie’s courage and example teaches us how to prevail—
FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!
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