It was one week after her wedding, when she was just 28 years old, that Shelley Archbold discovered a lump in her breast that turned out to be cancerous.
Through radiation and chemotherapy, her friend from college, Wesley Chapel graphic artist Mary Glassman (photo), sat by Shelley’s side.
Several years later, after Shelley gave birth to a son, she underwent genetic testing and decided to have a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of having a future recurrence of the disease.
Mary wanted to give Shelley a meaningful, useful gift. Searching the internet, she found that many women use a mastectomy pillow, but she didn’t find one she thought looked very comfortable — or sanitary, for that matter.
“I’m kind of a germophobe,” says Mary, who squirmed at the thought of a pillow up against a body recovering from surgery that couldn’t be washed. “My mom taught me to sew when I was very young, so I thought I could sew her something.”
Mary says she made a quick pattern, cut it out, and fashioned the first pillow. Since Shelley had a double mastectomy, Mary made two pillows so she would have one for each side.
“It turned out that her gift was by far the most useful thing that I didn’t know I would need,” says Shelley. “A lot of times when you’re sick, people want to help and they don’t really know how. Mary took it to the next level trying to think of what really would be the most comforting and helpful. She’s brilliant.”
Because Shelley liked the pillow so much, when Mary’s aunt had a mastectomy, Mary made her pillows, too. A couple of friends and neighbors asked her to make them for friends who had the procedure, too.
Mary, who lives in Seven Oaks with her husband and two kids, considered how many people could benefit from her pillows. She knew she couldn’t personally sew enough to make the pillows by hand, so she researched and found a company to manufacture the pillows.
Mary considered what to name the pillow, and ultimately settled on a tribute to her dear friend who first inspired it.
She named it, “The Shell Pillow.”
Her first production run has been completed and is currently being shipped. Once the pillows arrive, they will be ready for sale.
Mary says The Shell Pillow is better than others on the market because it is longer, offering more comfort.
While it was designed for those recovering from a mastectomy, it can be used by anyone recovering from breast or shoulder surgery who would benefit from being able to rest their arms away from their body.
And, of course, there’s that washable cover. “They have an aesthetic appeal and don’t look like a medical device,” Mary says. “You’d be comfortable having them out on the couch or on your bed.”
While Mary is both excited about launching her business and a bit nervous about the unknowns of undertaking something she’s never done before, she said she’s mostly looking forward to making the recovery process more comfortable for any women facing recovery from a mastectomy.
“I saw my friend and aunt suffer through it,” Mary says. “It’s difficult. If it could let them rest a little easier, ultimately that’s my goal, to give people comfort.”
Her friend Shelley believes The Shell Pillow will make a difference.
“I was really honored that she named it after me,” says Shelley. “I hope others find comfort the way I did, and know that it came from a friend helping a friend. Her reason to make these came from the heart.”
The Shell Pillow currently is available for pre-order and is expected to be available for purchase later this month. For more information or to purchase The Shell Pillow, visit TheShellPillow.com.