Woman lifts the spirits of breast cancer patients with needed clothes

Woman lifts the spirits of breast cancer patients with needed clothes

PORTLAND, Ore. – About 141 women in the Northwest will be diagnosed with breast cancer this week and 22 will die from the disease. 

You can help save a life by joining this year's Race for the Cure. The money raised supports the fight against breast cancer. Sometimes that fight goes beyond medical needs, and sometimes it's about the woman's spirit and appearance. 

That's why they come to see Paula Zellers. She's a certified mastectomy fitter at Providence St. Vincent's Transitions Center whose mission is to help breast cancer patients find the right clothes and accessories to fit their special needs. 

"We just try to ease their way," Zellers says. "Their bodies are changing, but we can show them what to do with that change and how they can feel good about themselves."

Zellers knows just how hard it can be to regain that confidence. That's because she's been there. Zellers was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, just two years after her mother died of the disease. Now she uses the Transitions Center to help women look and feel beautiful. 

The clothes and accessories are all designed for breast cancer patients, many of which are hand-selected by Zellers herself. The items may look like something you'd fine at any regular store, but these are designed with subtle differences in the cut and seams to make it more comfortable for breast cancer patients. 

"After reconstruction, you're a little tender so it's finding something soft and easy to wear," Zellers says. "You also have some release of muscles so you want something a little more containing."

Besides the hats, scarves and bras, there are unique items like meditation CDs and compression sleeves to help prevent swelling after surgery. Other top sellers include camisoles and a silver bracelet with the message that reads: "Expect Miracles."  
Zellers says in the five years she's been at Transitions, she's met many amazing people and has seen the impact clothes and accessories can make on a woman who's going through a tough time in her life.
"That's what makes this job so wonderful," she says. "There's just a tremendous feeling of happiness, probably mostly of sisterhood. You're in this with them and you know they walk out feeling so much better and that they're going to be able to face whatever comes next."

The Transitions Center at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.