Heartfelt Appreciation for Fleece Hearts Made by TeamMates for Cancer Patients
An ongoing project for TeamMates has been creating and giving fleece hearts to the Cancer Partners of Nebraska. The soft, stuffed hearts were made by TeamMates mentees and mentors for the Heart to Hold project, which provides cancer patients with a handmade fleece heart to hold while undergoing radiation treatment.
In 2019, the first year of partnership, TeamMates staff delivered over 300 fleece hearts to the center. At the next delivery in 2021, over 480 hearts. In 2023, TeamMates matches made 230 hearts. The Cancer Partners of Nebraska staff are extremely grateful for this annual project, as the hearts are well loved and utilized by patients.
Dr. Mark Stavas, of Cancer Partners of Nebraska, started the Heart to Hold project at a previous practice in Tennessee and had been looking for a group to help him introduce it to his Nebraska patients. TeamMates matches were happy to help, with over 100 matches completing a project in the first year of partnership.
Dr. Stavas estimates 60 Cancer Partner patients undergo radiation treatment in a week, with most receiving treatment daily. The radiation sessions last 20 to 30 minutes, and a typical treatment plan consists of six weeks of daily sessions. Patients must stay still inside a radiation vault, but are able to grip small items, like the fabric hearts, for comfort. Dr. Stavas hopes the hearts serve as a reminder that the patient is not alone in their journey and serve as “a metaphor for spiritual, emotional, and physical healing.”
Tracy, a patient at the Cancer Partners of Nebraska, was the first recipient of a TeamMates heart. The heart reminded her that people were in her corner. “I really value the community support and community involvement,” she said. The opportunity for mentees to learn the value of giving back to their communities is an added bonus, stating, “I think [it’s] important to start early with kids,” adding that she hopes TeamMates mentees will continue participating in community service into adulthood.