Local Ladies Put Cancer Awareness into Action

Last October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Shirley Hughes received an email that changed the course of her year. The message came from a sewing company and offered a free pattern to make pillows for breast cancer patients. Hughes has been on a mission ever since.

In the past 21 years, Hughes has lost two husbands to cancer. She is painfully aware of the disease’s devastating effects on both patients and caregivers. When she found the pillow pattern, she found a new calling.

“I love to sew, so I purchased an embroidery machine just last year,” Hughes said. “I refuse to sit around and feel sorry for myself. I thought making pillows for breast cancer patients would be something positive I could do to help fill many lonely hours at home. I felt like it would minister to people during a time when they need a sense of comfort.”

“My focus is on the Cancer Center and making the pillows for patients who receive care right here in Searcy,” she said. “I think that is a fitting place for them.”

Hughes crafts each pillow with pink ribbon and breast cancer awareness fabrics; many have a pink ribbon embroidered on the front. She has made more than 30 with plans to do many more.

In addition to the pillows, patients undergoing cancer treatments can also receive a stylish hat, designed by Searcy resident Barbara Oldroyd.

A brief two months after losing her husband to Alzheimer’s disease nearly 10 years ago, Oldroyd was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, an advanced type of breast cancer. To combat the cancer, she underwent intense chemotherapy treatments with a powerful medicine known as “Red Devil.” Oldroyd recalled that her hair began to fall out after two sessions.

“I went straight to my hair stylist and told him to cut my hair off,” she exclaimed. “I thought ‘if I’m going through this, I’m going to shine!’”

And, shine she did. Oldroyd began decorating hats to protect her head after the big haircut. “I put all the glitter and glitz I could on each one,” she said, “because I was determined to shine! I am pretty determined in whatever I do, so battling and beating cancer was not any different.”

Soon, people started asking Oldroyd where she found the glitzy hats; they wanted one, too, either for themselves or for friends with cancer. Thus, her “No Hair Hats” were born. To date, Oldroyd has made more than 560 hats for patients as near as White County and from as far away as Michigan and Florida; as young as 4-years-old to 90-year-olds.

“My hats are not for sale,” she pointed out. “They are already paid for, and I have donated them to White County Oncology, thanks to the generosity of Simmons First Bank here in Searcy. It is very special that the bank cares so much about the people in our community and has allowed me to continue this work.”

The pillows and hats are available to patients at White County Oncology inside the Cancer Center of Excellence, located at 415 Rodgers Drive in Searcy.

The Cancer Center of Excellence was built through a partnership between White County Medical Center, CARTI, White County Oncology and RAPA/Searcy Breast Center. Located at 415 Rodgers Dr. in Searcy, the Cancer Center encompasses a chemotherapy and infusion treatment center, radiation therapy, the Searcy Breast Center, a Diagnostic Center with PET Scanner, appearance center, chapel, conference/education room and counseling center.