Community gives comfort during, beyond breast cancer treatment

May 11, 2015, is etched in Amy Schimmel’s brain. It’s the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 38 and terrified.

“All I could think about was not being around for my husband and kids. I knew I had the fight of my life ahead of me,” she said.

After five surgeries, 20 weeks of chemo and five weeks of radiation, Schimmel, from Champaign, is a breast cancer survivor. So when asked to co-host Pinkasso, a fundraiser for Carle Cancer Center and Mills Breast Cancer Institute, she accepted the challenge.

More than 160 women gathered at Mills Breast Cancer Institute to raise money to purchase new infusion chairs for cancer patients receiving treatment at Carle and free wigs for cancer patients in the community. Carle Cancer Center physicians and staff shared information on advancements in cancer treatment.

Schimmel spent about100 hours receiving treatment in the infusion suite at Carle Cancer Center.

“When you’re sitting for that long, comfort is essential, but even more important is the ability to easily change positions to help ease the side effects of the medications,” she said.

The facility provides care in the most comfortable way possible. The new chairs will be much larger and offer more cushion, a foldout side table, a button to lift the feet and a manual lever to adjust the seat.

The event is supporting a community-wide resource where all cancer patients can benefit from the free wigs regardless of where they receive treatment. Kimberly Harden, LSW, said free wigs are rare in the Champaign area. Many patients would have to travel to Danville, Decatur or even Chicago to find such a resource.

While a 40-minute car ride doesn’t seem like a lot, for someone in the middle of chemotherapy it can be very daunting when you are feeling nauseous or tired.

“It’s a small ray of sunshine during a difficult time,” Harden said of providing free wigs.

She said one of the first questions she’s asked is ‘am I going to lose my hair?’ and knowing that help is available close to home will make a difference.

“Losing my hair made me feel so vulnerable. Suddenly, it became evident to everyone around me that I had cancer. Looking in the mirror was a constant reminder of my diagnosis. For me, having access to a wig and head coverings helped me feel better about my appearance and gave me a much-needed morale boost,” Schimmel said.

Pinkasso raised nearly $28,000, thanks in part to a generous matching gift from the Mills family. Gifts made to Carle Center for Philanthropy for Mills Breast Cancer Institute will continue to be doubled in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Donate here.

Members of the Carle Center for Philanthropy’s Women’s Legacy Circle served on the Pinkasso planning committee.