‘Bag Ladies’ ease the breast cancer care journey with a woman’s touch and splash of colour

Nov. 28, 2018

London, Ontario – In the friendly and quaint village of London’s Old South, tucked away in the basement of a majestic church, there’s a sweat shop. Each assigned a specific task, 15 to 25 women sit in clusters at tables toiling all day long – well organized, perfectly choreographed and intensely focused. They cut, fold, serge, sew and snip, taking few breaks and churning out hundreds of brightly coloured garments designed and destined for a very specific – and special – customer.

If not for the laughter and love, compassion and camaraderie in the room, there might be cause for concern. But it is the spirit of generosity that brings these women together, and their giving heart is stitched into every piece they create.

They are known as the “Bag Ladies” because they make fabric bags to hold the surgical drains and tubes required by breast cancer patients after surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London. The fabric bags, which can be worn on a belt, neatly contain the drainage containers and tubes making them easier and more comfortable for the patient to manage.

The Bag Ladies are all members of the Canadian Embroiderers’ Guild, London, and the “sweatshop” is a cherished annual gathering that yields a vital supply of the bags for the Breast Care Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Relying on donations of unused fabric, the Bag Ladies donate nearly 400 of the hand-crafted bags to the hospital every year. (Media is invited see the Bag Ladies in action on Nov. 29. Details below.)

“The sisterhood of the Bag Ladies is amazing,” says Sue Hickey, long-time guild member and organizer of the Bag Ladies outreach project. “It’s so rewarding. We feel we are making someone’s life easier and adding a woman’s touch, a dose of humanity and a splash of colour to the clinical and sterile hospital experience and recovery.”

Breast Care Program staff and physicians see daily the difference the bags make for patients.

“The kind generosity of the Canadian Embroiderers’ Guild offer a personal touch to our patients at a time when they may feel vulnerable and anxious,” says nurse practitioner Pat Baruth. “We are so appreciative of their contribution to the patient journey.”

At St. Joseph’s Hospital, every breast surgery patient with drains receives a bag lady bag, and each bag comes with a card clipped to the pocket with the group’s mission stated in a simple sentence:

“Women supporting women, to rest, to heal, to become strong again.”

Read the full Bag Ladies story on St. Joseph’s website


Media is invited to see the Bag Ladies in action on Thursday Nov. 29, from 10 am to 12 pm at Wesley-Knox United Church, 91 Askin Street, London.

A member of St. Joseph’s Breast Care Program will also be there.

For more information, contact:
Dahlia Reich, Communication & Public Affairs
St. Joseph’s Health Care London,
(519) 646-6100 ext. 65294, pager 10117, Cell: 519 619-0971

About St. Joseph’s Health Care London

Renowned for compassionate care, St. Joseph’s Health Care London is a leading academic health care centre in Canada dedicated to helping people live to their fullest by minimizing the effects of injury, disease and disability through excellence in care, teaching and research. Through partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute and our collaborative engagement with other health care and academic partners, St. Joseph’s has become an international leader in the areas of: chronic disease management; medical imaging; specialized mental health care; rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics; and surgery. St. Joseph’s operates through a wide range of hospital, clinic and long-term and community based settings, including: St. Joseph’s Hospital; Parkwood Institute; Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care; and the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care. For more information, visit www.sjhc.london.on.ca.

Back to Newsroom