After experiencing the pains of undergoing breast cancer surgery in February 2019, Pam Kelsky knew exactly the struggle and difficulties facing post-op breast cancer patients and she was determined to improve the journey for others. Together with her friend Gaby Mann, the duo created bcalmed, a nonprofit organization that provides a comfortable and convenient method of managing post-operative surgical drains.
The soft polyester, durable, machine washable and waterproof bags consist of four mesh pouches that comfortably carry and conceal the surgical drains. The adjustable strap hangs around the user’s neck or shoulder to minimize the bag’s interaction with sensitive areas.
“No one talks about the drain and what happens to your body after surgery,” Kelsky says. “It’s embarrassing for people to see it and surgeons told me they didn’t have a good solution, so I wanted to do something.”
After her surgery, Kelsky wanted a way to wear surgical drains discreetly in public during the recuperation period, which led her and Mann to establish the charity and develop the bcalmed bag. The two have also created a version for men to make their journey easier.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.’s “2022 Breast Cancer Statistics,” there are over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. An estimated 287,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. and 51,400 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer in 2022. An estimated 2,710 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S.
“I was touched that Pam and I could work together to bring her idea of the bcalmed bag to fruition,” Mann says. “We hope that the bag will eliminate one concern for mastectomy patients of how to manage their drains.”
Bcalmed is working with hospitals, clinics, and surgeons to make it available for patients to wear home after surgery. They obtained permission from the Cleveland Clinic Weston’s Foundation to freely distribute the bags to patients. So far, 3000 bags have been produced and will be available for donation.
“Each patient is different and what they need is different because most people don’t understand what it is like to lose a breast,” Dr. Cassann Blake says, Director of the Lozick Women’s Center at Cleveland Clinic Florida, Weston Hospital. “We are happy to partner with bcalmed to give patients the confidence needed for their new journey.”
Kelsky and Mann hope individuals or groups will donate or partner with bcalmed so the bags can continue to be offered for free. For more information, visit www.bcalmed.org.