From breast cancer survivor to entrepreneur

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How a West Pittston woman turned her experience into helping others

WEST PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A Northeastern Pennsylvania woman is proving to be much more than a breast cancer survivor. She has turned her painful, post-surgery experience into creating a comfort product for others.

The woman from Luzerne County realized there had to be some way to better reduce the pain of the ride home from the hospital. She came up with a product that’s resulted in hundreds of sales per month.

“It covers everything I need to cover on my breast,” said Maria Heck, creator of The Breast and Chest Buddy.

After undergoing a double mastectomy in 2009, the hospital sent the West Pittston woman home with a pillow to buffer the pressure of her seat belt’s shoulder harness. It did not give her the relief she needed.

“If you are cut open and stitched up and you have drains put in you it’s excruciating. Excruciating!,” says Heck.

After undergoing several follow-up procedures and enduring the same seat belt pain, she had an idea.

“I made them myself, a few times myself. They looked horrendous. I wouldn’t buy them.”

But she perfected her prototype and design for what she calls The Breast and Chest Buddy. It comes in a variety of colors and designs, but it is what is inside that is so important.

“It’s a high-quality, medium density foam. We sampled all of the foams. These are the foams that lift the seat belt up just enough off of your site, not too much, not too little,” she says.

Marketing her product to breast cancer and heart surgery patients, Heck assembled a small team of seamstresses from Allentown to make the personal cushions.

“They deliver them every week. They do impeccable work and I will keep it local forever.”

Heck started sales of her comfort product in 2014 on the e-commerce website Etsy.

“I’m still selling a lot on there. Amazon blew the lid off.”

Heck says sales averaged about 900 per month before the pandemic slowed surgical procedures where comfort pillows come in handy.

Heck reads, “Awesome cushion. Bought this for my sister who is battling breast cancer.”

With online reviews of The Breast and Chest Buddy overwhelmingly positive, Heck was motivated to create what’s called the Port-a-Pal. It’s for patients whose chest is left sensitive from surgical ports left in place for intravenous treatments. Heck says she’s amazed an idea born from personal pain has led to a thriving product line.

“People are really happy with it and it warms my heart.”

Heck has also developed and sells the Tummy Buddy for C-section and hernia patients.

She says she’s proud of herself and pleased to come up with a product that benefits others as much as herself.

Heck sells her comfort products on sites including Amazon, Etsy and Ebay and even her own website.

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