As I prepare for my surgery, the experience is vastly different from my last mastectomy. First, I actually got to choose my surgeons and meet with them (two wonderful women) several times. At our final meeting, I’m given a bag with treats, complimentary things that will make my recovery easier and more comfortable. I’m stunned to see two pink heart shaped pillows for me to cradle under my arms. These pillows have a much deeper meaning to me than to other women who receive them. Here is another brief excerpt from my book to tell you why.
After surgery, the surgeon said I need a pillow to cushion my arm and provide protection and comfort. No pillows allowed in jail. That would be luxurious, even for a cancer patient. I tell the girls and they are silent. I know they feel helpless; so do I. I can’t even get Medical to check my incision, let alone find me a non-existent pillow.
However, a couple of hours later, four young women come in to my cell with an order. “Close your eyes,” said Roxie, “and hold out your hands, Sue Ellen.” When I do, I feel something soft. I look to find the most beautiful pillow I have ever seen. It is light blue, tufted and fringed, made of the Kotex furnished by the jail. The women contributed their precious supplies and wove them together to form a tufted square. Then they used the small golf pencil that we are allowed for our writing tool to punch holes in the ends of the pads. They took thin strips from another pad to use as thread to sew it all around. Finally, they fringed the end material to give it that designer look. Honestly, I’ve had beautiful, expensive pillows in my life, but never one that held so much love, creativity, and generosity. I treasure that pillow and hide it under my smock when the guards come to search for contraband. At a terrible time in my life, it provides indescribable comfort and I will never forget it.
The pink pillows I’ve been given are made with love by women at the Bernina Center. I am very grateful for their gift. But I will never forget the pillow made for me at the jail, a gift from those whom society considers the lowest of the low, the addicts, prostitutes and thieves. If they had been caught, they would have faced considerable trouble. Those women risked a lot to help and comfort me. I have no idea where they are now, but they are forever in my memory and my prayers. I live in gratitude.