Hundreds of ‘Jen’s Friends’ rally round for breast cancer help

Joolz Ferguson, Jen Horrocks and her sister Alison Booth with the pillows

Joolz Ferguson, Jen Horrocks and her sister Alison Booth with the pillows

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When mum-of-two Jen Horrocks was diagnosed with breast cancer, her friends were keen to rally round and show their support.

But they had no idea that would lead to them getting out their sewing needles and creating a community of hundreds of people named Jen’s Friends.

Joolz Ferguson, of South Avenue, Chorley, decided to make a mastectomy pillow to protect Jen, 45, after surgery.

And the idea grew to make pillows for other people with breast cancer or other health issues.

Jen, who previously had breast cancer three years ago, said: “When I had my mastectomy last time, I kept walking around with a cushion under my arm constantly because I couldn’t find anywhere comfortable to put my arm.

“When they said this time I needed a mastectomy, I thought there must be something out there to help me.

“Mine has been with me constantly. I sleep with it and walk round with it. It provides physical comfort but emotional comfort as well.”

Jen Horrocks

“I started looking online and there was nothing in this country really. There are heart-shaped cushions, but they were so expensive for a cushion to put under your arm.”

Joolz, 41, said: “Generally they are quite big in America, but Jen couldn’t find them here and ended up paying about £13 for one.

“I said I would have made her one. I went home and thought I would do it.”

Jen, who lives in Horwich, discovered she had breast cancer last month. She first had a mastectomy - an operation to remove a breast - in 2012 and had another when she was diagnosed with breast cancer again.

She has been using a mastectomy pillow made for her by Joolz ever since and even took extras along to the Royal Bolton Hospital for other patients when she had surgery.

Jen said: “Mine has been with me constantly. I sleep with it and walk round with it. It provides physical comfort but emotional comfort as well.”

Joolz, Jen’s sister Alison Booth and a group of friends are continuing to make the pillows for other people, following a simple design and attaching a ribbon to be put over the shoulder. Each pillow has a message to say it has been made by Jen’s Friends.

Jen has also been making the pillows as she recovers from surgery.

Joolz, who works as a Marie Curie nurse and an independent celebrant conducting weddings and funerals, said: “Because of the shape, the top of the heart fits nicely under the armpit. It’s for people really struggling with comfort.

“They find they are walking around with sponges under their arms or cushions, anything to get comfortable. But with these, because they have the ribbon, they are not having to hold them.

“The other important bit is that they protect from a seat belt.

“It makes the recovery a bit more comfortable.

“It’s a horrible disease. I hate the fact my friend is having to go through this again. It was done to help her.”

More than 1,000 people now “like” a Facebook page set up by Jen’s Friends and both friends and complete strangers have been giving their support.

Donations of materials have been pouring in, such as old duvet covers, pillow cases and ribbons. Some are also making their own pillows and giving them to Joolz, with one friend sending pillows from Australia.

“People have been so generous,” Joolz said.

More than 20 pillows have so far been sent out to people who contacted Jen’s Friends via Facebook and Joolz, who also has cancer, hopes more people will get in touch to request one.

They are given for free, but Joolz does intend to start charging for postage after covering the costs herself so far.

She said: “We want to provide them for free. I don’t think, after everything they have been through, that these men and women should have to pay to be comfortable.”

Once they have a good number of pillows, there are plans to start donating them to hospitals, hospices and other organisations.

And Jen is delighted by the support she has received.

“I have such a fabulous set of friends. My sister and all my friends have been amazing,” she said.

“Joolz always knows what to say to people and what to do. She is such a special person.”

To find out more about the mastectomy pillows or to request one, go to www.facebook.com/Jensfriendsmastectomypillow.