“Now I’m getting a chance to help someone else fighting the battle.” -Cheri Rich
Sixteen-year-old Cheri Rich loves to sew. The junior at Oak Park High School has been sewing since she was a little girl and has since made several quilts for fun.
But now, Cheri is sewing for a meaningful cause.
She spends hours cutting fabric along a pattern, ironing the material, and sewing several pieces together. The finished products are special crossbody bags designed for women battling breast cancer.
After women undergo mastectomies and reconstruction surgery, they are sent home with special drains that are attached to the body for several weeks. Wearing and taking close care of the drains can be one of the most difficult challenges post-surgery.
“Needless to say, this is a tremendously frightening time and it is very odd to have tubes hanging from your body for two to three weeks,” said Sherry Jetmore, a breast cancer nurse educator at Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City. “These bags hold the drains so our patients can have somewhat of a normal day and make life a lot easier.”
Cheri started sewing the bags for Saint Luke’s with her grandma as a way to meet her required school service hours. But she quickly surpassed the requirement and continued making the bags.
“When we first started making the bags in the summer, I spent about six or seven hours a day on them,” Cheri said humbly. “I enjoy doing it, and it helps me to relax after a stressful day.”
In no time, Cheri and her grandma had 60 finished bags to deliver to Sherry at the hospital. But Cheri didn’t stop there.
“I have been a nurse for 26 years, and I have NEVER seen anyone make the kind of bags she does,” Sherry said. “I am completely blown away with her dedication to our cancer patients and to Saint Luke’s Hospital.”
Knowing that she is helping make cancer patients’ lives a bit easier means a lot to Cheri. She knows firsthand how devastating it can be after losing her father to cancer in September of 2017.
“I saw my dad fighting for months, and I couldn’t do a lot then— but now, I’m getting a chance to help someone else fighting the battle and that makes me feel a lot better,” Cheri said.
“When her father passed away, people helped out in any way they could from taking him to doctors’ appointments to helping with the kids to just giving support,” said Cheri’s grandma, Melissa Ide-Laird. “I think Cheri seeing that and being able to return the kindness has been a great thing.”
Since the new school year started, Cheri still devotes time to working on the bags each week—all while juggling a busy high school schedule and hurdles of her own. Even though ongoing health issues have made her day to day life more challenging, Cheri chooses to make giving back to others a priority.
To date, she has made well over 200 bags and continues to work on more.
“Cheri’s heart is huge,” Sherry said. “She has done so much for others quietly and makes a huge difference to our breast cancer patients and Saint Luke’s Plastic Surgery Specialists.”