How cancer survivors are becoming crusaders to help others

Nancy says the blue cape she was given during her cancer journey still holds special meaning for her.

As Nancy Bennett sits and sews together capes that will be offered to cancer patients at Aurora Cancer Care in Grafton, she thinks about the impact it will have on the next person who hears the devastating words, “You have cancer.”

But she doesn’t have to imagine how it may brighten a patient’s day; she knows. That’s because she was the recipient of one in 2016 during her own battle with breast cancer.

“During my radiation treatment I was offered a cape. I chose a blue one with green buttons and I still have it today,” Nancy shared.

Nancy had surgery followed by five weeks of radiation treatment. She said the cape was not only a practical offering, as it made her treatments more efficient, it brought some much-needed color to her day. As she would sit during treatments and watch other patients choose their capes, she realized she wasn’t alone.

“It was neat to see how each patient personally chose their cape— maybe it matched their personality, it was their favorite color, or it was just something they could feel in control of that day. It was uplifting to watch other patients make their selection,” she explained.

Near the end of Nancy’s treatment journey, she began to volunteer with the Cape Crusaders. It’s a group of volunteers who gather together to sew capes for lung and breast cancer patients to use during their procedures at Aurora Cancer Care in Grafton. Many of the members are fellow cancer survivors, who like Nancy, want to help others facing the same battle.

Sheila Kissel was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in 2014 and now considers herself a survivor. “I was absolutely honored to be invited to help other people in this way. We also started putting in a little note in the pocket to let them know that we’ve been where they are, just a little something uplifting.”

“We want new patients to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will come out on the other side,” explained Nancy. And maybe, they will even become a crusader to help others do the same.

The Cape Crusaders have made and donated hundreds of capes over the years. They could use financial and in-kind donations to offset the cost of the fleece, buttons and thread they use for each one. If you would like to volunteer with the Cape Crusaders, contact Sue Pokey at 262-329-5000. You can make a gift by contacting Erin Starck at

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