October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
In 2017, Rachel Baumel was desperate for sleep. She had been through the ringer. First, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then she underwent a double-mastectomy, two reconstruction surgeries, and the removal of her right ovary. “You can’t recover if you can’t sleep,” she says. “After a mastectomy, you’re forced to sleep on your back and on an incline. I just couldn’t get comfortable.” A natural problem-solver and self-described serial-entrepreneur, Rachel got to work creating her own pillow system. “I bought all these pillows off Amazon and started configuring them in different ways.” Soon, Baumel had created an adjustable five-pillow system and what she called her “life raft,” and a new business—The Sleep Again Pillow System—was born.
“There was a lot of trial and error,” says Kate Devlin, Baumel’s business partner who previously did marketing for Boppy, a company that sells baby pillows. “I was a little more cautious about starting a business,” says Devlin. “But this is how Rachel operates. She’s always like, ‘We can figure this out.’ She talks to a hundred people a day, and it was through one of those connections—the my-next-door-neighbor’s-mother’s-friend-has-a-woman-who-knows-someone—kind of connection that we ultimately found a consultant who helps small businesses like ours. Before that we spent months driving the system to places, and we’d find someone here and there who had a small manufacturing facility, but then we’d get a quote and be like, ‘Oh. That won’t work.’ One guy quoted us $400 just for the covers for one pillow set. We also thought we’d ship them ourselves, but you start thinking about the logistics of putting these giant pillows in your car and you quickly figure out, ‘This isn’t our best option.’ We were definitely worried in the beginning,” Devlin says. “It was stressful because we weren’t selling anything.”
Fast forward a few months and the partners have a sourcing consultant, a manufacturer, a buyer’s agent, and a freight forwarder. “We’re up and running now,” says Devlin. “We’re selling about a pillow a day and it never gets old. We celebrate every sale.”
“This business is pure passion,” says Baumel. “Every time I connect someone with a pillow, I feel pure joy and happiness.” People email and say, “I haven’t been able to sleep in weeks. I can’t thank you enough.”
What’s New in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment
Jennifer Diamond M.D., who works in the CU Cancer Center, says new and exciting advancements are happening in the field of breast-cancer treatment.
“We’re becoming increasingly sophisticated at being able to tailor a treatment for individuals and their tumor’s characteristics. We’ve learned so much about the biology of different breast cancers, and that’s allowed us to develop targeted treatments rather than using traditional chemotherapy to prevent recurrence. In all types of breast cancers, we’ve been able to escalate therapy for patients who are at higher risk of recurrence and de-escalate therapy for patients with a lower risk of recurrence. For example, for women who are diagnosed with the most common kind of breast cancer, which is hormone receptor-positive, we’re able to omit chemotherapy and treat them with a pill that can lower estrogen or block estrogen-receptors. We can spare them from chemotherapy, while giving them treatment that is better-tolerated and really effective at preventing recurrence.
“For triple negative breast cancer, which is a more aggressive breast-cancer subtype, we now have approvals for immunotherapy drugs in early and late-stage breast cancer and that means that we can use these treatments to help your own body’s immune system prevent recurrence. That’s a big breakthrough.
“In Her2 positive breast cancer, which is a third subtype of breast cancer, we’ve seen the approval of multiple new Her2-targeted drugs that can prevent recurrence and extend survival in women who are living with metastatic breast cancer.
“Across the board, in early-onset and late-stage cancer there have been so many advances. We’re lucky with cancer screening and breast-cancer awareness that the vast majority of patients are diagnosed at an early stage.”
Dr. Traci Lyons, who works at CU School of Medicine, says, “The Young Women’s Breast Cancer Transitional Program has recently identified specific molecules that are driving aggressiveness of cancers in young women, and we are working toward novel therapies that target those molecules. While the results are still preliminary, we expect the research will inform novel clinical trials in the near future. We are also working toward identifying treatments that will be specifically effective in patients living with Stage IV or metastatic breast cancer.”
For more information on pillows that help you sleep, visit https://sleepagainpillows.com/. For more information on breast cancer visit https://medschool.cuanschutz.edu/colorado-cancer-center.
Front Porch photos by Christie Gosch