Cancer Council SA’s Breast Prosthesis Volunteer Program has been running for over 20 years and in the past year alone, has provided 121 free, temporary, soft breast prostheses to women with breast cancer who have had a mastectomy. Michele has been generously volunteering her time at Cancer Council SA for over 20 years and spent a lot of that time sewing breast prostheses for women impacted by breast cancer.
Michele knows the impact a cancer diagnosis can have on families, after travelling to Victoria to support her mum through her own breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. The experience motivated her to become a Cancer Council Volunteer.
“As time went on volunteering for Cancer Council SA, I did all sorts of things. I’ve produced resource booklets, assisted with mailouts, answered phone calls from the community and processed donations,” Michele says.
“It was probably about 10 years down the track that I got involved with the Breast Prosthesis Program. I didn’t come here to sew in the beginning, I’ve just floated from one thing to the next, to the next and ended up here.”
A breast prosthesis is a synthetic breast that is worn in a bra or under clothing by a woman who has had a mastectomy as treatment for breast cancer. There are many reasons why women who have had a mastectomy may choose to use a breast prosthesis, such as to replace the weight of the lost breast, create symmetry under clothing, to boost confidence, or to help adjust to the changes in their body.
Michele and our other breast prosthesis sewing volunteers make what’s referred to as a ‘soft’ breast prosthesis for women who have just undergone surgery, when the breast area is still tender. These are made using a super soft material and stuffed with cotton wool to create the shape.
A soft prosthesis is usually worn temporarily until the breast area has recovered and they can transition to a permanent breast prosthesis made from medical grade silicone gel. These are moulded into the natural shape of a breast and weighted to feel similar to the remaining breast.
Michele has enjoyed sewing since she was a kid and is also part of a craft group who run a shop six days a week. Her incredible sewing skills and experience have been a huge support to the program over the years.
“I managed the program for about eight years with a team of three people sewing, plus me. I would teach the other volunteers how to sew the prosthesis and ensure we had enough of each size ready for when people needed them,” Michele says.
“A few years ago, we received some feedback from breast nurses that some of the larger sizes needed adjusting because they just weren’t fitting right, so I was able to readjust some of the patterns in the bigger sizes, so they fit the shape of the body better.”
Today, Michele continues to sew prostheses for the program every chance she gets in between her other sewing projects and spending time with her two grandkids.
“It probably takes about five minutes to make one prosthesis. I have little sessions every now and again in between my other sewing projects. It’s just one little thing that I can do to help. I think it’s important to volunteer and help out somewhere. We should all do it,” Michele says.
If you are impacted by breast cancer and want to learn more about Cancer Council SA’s Breast Prosthesis Program and how you can access a free, soft breast prosthesis, contact our Cancer Council Nurses on 13 11 20 or email@example.com
To learn more about how you can volunteer with Cancer Council SA, like Michele, visit cancersa.org.au/get-involved/volunteer