Valerie, 56, makes and sells her cushions full-time. Image credit: Valerie Nicholls.

Breast cancer survivor sews comforting post-surgery pillows

Valerie Nicholls slept with one when she had breast cancer – now she is making and selling her own

AN artist from Wales is selling pillows designed to provide extra cushioning to people who have had surgeries on their breasts and abdomens.

Valerie Nicholls, 56, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2017. Her nurse gave her a comfort pillow to help her sleep after she had a lumpectomy surgery. This inspired her to get creative, stitching together her own handmade, heart-shaped cushions.

Valerie’s heart-shaped pillows are designed to support and comfort people recovering from surgery. Image credit: Valerie Nicholls.

She started sewing pillows to donate to her local hospital, and three years later, she opened her Etsy shop, Sewn for You Designs.

“My business is my story. I am a cancer survivor. The night before my surgery, my breast care nurse called and explained that I should use a small cushion, to protect the surgical wounds,” said Valerie.

The cushions, designed for post-operative use by patients recovering from mastectomies, hysterectomies, C-sections and similar surgeries, are soft, heart-shaped and available in lots of different prints and colours.

She also makes padded seatbelt covers, to make travelling more comfortable for those with surgical wounds, and “cough cushions” to give support to patients recovering from heart operations in which the surgeon has to break their sternum.

Valerie, a former teacher, started making the cushions five years ago before opening Sewn for You in 2020.

She has sold over 650 cushions since she launched her Etsy shop. The cushions range in price from £10 to £17, with free delivery. Many of her customers are based in Cardiff and the rest of Wales – as well as elsewhere in the UK.

Joanna Richards, 46, from Newport, bought two cushions for loved ones recovering from breast cancer.

“I bought the first one for my mother who was diagnosed aged 83 and she has found it very comforting, so much she wanted me to order another for my older sister who has just had her lumpectomy operation,” she said.

“She wanted my sister to have the same comfort that she had.”

Valerie works closely with her customers to create bespoke cushions that are personal to them.

“Having used a comfort cushion myself, I know what it feels like to rely on it for support and comfort. My customers carry them everywhere. It is something so valuable to recovery, both physical and emotional,” she said.

She has had hundreds of positive reviews on her Etsy shop, with customers describing the cushions as “the best gift idea”, “really useful” and “a wonderful and thoughtful product”.

Valerie also caters for male breast cancer patients and said that they tend to prefer darker colours. She said: “I do not ignore men who are diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Valerie now runs her business full time. But she doesn’t see it as work – rather, as a passion that “comes from the heart”.

She said: “Many customers have told me that they feel I can relate because I have had breast cancer too. I know what support they need, not just from a comfort cushion but also who to contact for medical or practical advice, and I am only a message away.”

  • Sewn for You cushions are available to buy here.