RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — A breast cancer survivor from Ridgefield drew on her own experiences to help over 10,000 patients deal with the many physical and emotional impacts of having a mastectomy.
Maureen Lutz is the creator of the Necessities Bag, a bag that contains practical information and post-operative supplies for wound care, personal comfort and hygiene for women who have undergone a mastectomy.
“After my mastectomy, I felt that the medical aspects of my recovery were addressed, but not the personal care and comfort aspect," said Lutz, who had a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005.
"I felt there was nothing that existed specifically for mastectomy patients — we were lumped in with all the other cancers," she said.
Lutz decided to help women prepare for post-operative side effects "that bring you down when you don’t need any more humiliation or frustration," she said. "That is my goal -- to help women be better prepared.”
The items in each bag — valued at $60 — educate women on what they’ll need in the days leading up to their surgery and in the first few days at home afterward.
The bag contains hospital and wound care supplies, as well as personal care items such as comfort pillows and flushable wipes.
Each item in the bag was specifically thought of and chosen by Lutz. One of the items is a guide to packing for the hospital.
“I didn’t realize I didn’t need to pack the same things as when I went to the hospital to have a baby," she said.
As a result, Lutz was stuck wearing hospital gowns for her entire stay, and she didn’t need anything she had packed.
One of her biggest issues at that time was swollen feet, she said.
“I couldn’t get my shoes on after the surgery,” Lutz said. “I had to wear slippers coming home, and I thought to myself at that moment that I wished somebody had told me this.”
Once she put together the items for the bag, her greatest challenge was figuring out how to get the bags to women.
“With hospital privacy regulations, there was no way I would know who these women were,” she said. “I realized that the only way to get the bags to women was through their surgeon or nurse.”
Lutz, along with a host of volunteers, delivers 30 to 60 bags every month to surgeons and nurses at breast centers, hospitals and medical offices.
Lutz does not make any profits from the bags. Organizations and individuals contribute to the cost of the bags through fundraisers and grants. Necessities Inc. is a 50lc(3) charitable organization.
"Every time I worry about where the funding is going to come from, I get a thank you letter in the mail and I realize what an impact I’ve had to thousands of women," said Lutz, a mother of two and grandmother of three.
“Hearing from all these women is what continues to keep me going.”
Several years ago, Lutz appeared on ABC TV's "The View" to talk about the Necessities Bag. On the show, she received a new Ford Escape, which she still drives today.
Necessities Bags are distributed in Connecticut, Northern Westchester County and Suffern, N.Y., as well as on Long Island and in New Jersey.
For more information on the Necessities Bag, click click here .