LAKEVIEW — An Old Town woman who started Chicago's first cancer recovery boutique for women has launched a Kickstarter campaign to better educate health care professionals.
Pattie Sheehan opened Second Act in Lakeview about five years ago after spending 30 years in advertising, and has since helped hundreds of women who are fighting breast cancer or are recovering from the disease.
Sheehan is a certified mastectomy fitter, and in some cases will work with women from the time they are diagnosed all the way through their treatment and recovery. She builds a one-on-one relationship and outfits women with scarves, wigs and forms for those who have lost a breast.
Breast cancer survivor Beth Gainer regained confidence with the help of a customized bra after undergoing a lumpectomy and later a discectomy in 2006.
"For the first time in years I actually felt whole and felt beautiful," Gainer said.
Sheehan's mother, father and step-father all died of cancer, and for her, opening the shop at 3020 N. Lincoln Ave. seemed like a calling after being laid off from an advertising agency.
"I work with these women. It's more than just a walk in," she said. "I used to work in advertising and it was all about the firm handshake. Now it's all about hugs."
Gainer, 51, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 39 and struggled finding a bra that would fit her. She ran into Sheehan at a breast cancer fundraising luncheon by chance, and if she hadn't been randomly seated next to Sheehan, she might have never heard of her service.
"I had been looking for someone like her for years," Gainer said. "When breast cancer is over it never really is over. You have to deal with the fear and the unknown every day."
On her first trip to the Lakeview-based "boutique" Gainer admits she was nervous, but she was taken into a private room to try bras and different-size breast forms.
"It was very comforting. It was very soothing. She put me at ease immediately," Gainer said.
She bought the prosthetic device that same day.
"I felt like $1 million when I left," Gainer said.
Some of Sheehan's clients have been coming to her Lakeview location for up to four years.
"The toughest part is when you lose someone," she said.
While Sheehan hopes to one day open as a nonprofit, she offers volunteer fittings at Stroger Hospital once a month and volunteers with ALAS-WINGS, a non-profit breast cancer awareness organization for Latina women.
The new Kickstarter campaign was announced by the mayor's office Tuesday as part of Chicago's first curated Kickstarter page, Seed Chicago.
The collaboration between Kickstarter, World Business Chicago and the mayor's office highlights projects that create jobs and growth in Chicago's neighborhoods through the crowd-funding platform.
As of Thursday morning, Sheehan had raised $2,855 of her $15,000 goal to help fund the video that will educate health care professionals on the products and care she provides.
"When women finish their medical treatment, they don’t really know what to do next," she said. "They don’t know that people like me exist."
The same is for many doctors, who are unaware that most insurance providers cover items sold at Second Act.
"Really a lot of products are covered by insurance," Gainer said.
"None of my doctors or nurses or anything talked to me about Pattie. Why this piece of the puzzle is missing is beyond me."