Volunteers to sew dignity robes for breast, lung cancer patients

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A group of sewing students plan to volunteer their time and skills to fashion "dignity robes" for women undergoing radiation treatment for breast and lung cancer at UPMC McKeesport.

The students will meet Sunday at Cut & Sew Studio in East Liberty to make the robes, which are designed like kimonos with velcro down the side so doctors can easily access the area of the body that needs to be treated without completely undressing the patient, said Catherine Batcho, owner of Cut & Sew.

This is the first time Ms. Batcho has been involved with a dignity robe project, but she has a volunteer for each of the studio's eight sewing machines on Sunday. While the size of the studio limits the number of robes that can be made during a given session, she said she hopes to turn it into a monthly event.

Ms. Batcho said she also will assemble kits to give sewers to take home to make additional robes.

The robes are 100 percent cotton, and the fabric was either donated or acquired at a steep discount, according to Geoffrey Clauss, director of patient and community services at the Jodie Matta-Dillinger Cancer Resource Center at UPMC Mc-Keesport.

Mr. Clauss said hospital officials as well as Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd and state Sens. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, and Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, plan to attend the event.

He said the goal is to help any woman who comes to Mc-Keesport for cancer treatment.

"The key is to have women feel better about their experience going through radiation," he said.

Ms. Batcho said the gowns are worn many times as women undergo cancer treatment, so they are finished nicely with no frayed edges and are designed to hold up through multiple washings.

"They have to be pretty professionally done," she said.

For Sunday's event, the volunteers are students who have a few classes under their belts or people who have been sewing for a long time. In the future, Ms. Batcho said she'd allow children sew the dignity robes if they have enough experience.

Sunday's session will begin at 1 p.m. at the studio, 124 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty. To volunteer for future dignity robe sewing sessions, email Ms. Batcho at catherine@cutandsewstudio.com.

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Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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