“Breast Cancer Frenemies”

by Kira Taniguchi

Cherie Mathews:  Kicking Cancer’s Ass

“I’m trying to kick cancer’s ass,” Cherie Mathews said. Mathews was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 at the age of 40 and eventually underwent a double mastectomy, but Mathews doesn’t feel sorry for herself. In fact, she is mad at breast cancer, and she’s fighting back.

Mathews is helping Austin women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer heal comfortably through her specially designed healincomfort shirts. A project that stemmed from a lesson learned the hard way after a painful recovery after surgery. She is also keeping morale high through her annual Support Crew motorcycle rides she organizes with Cowboy Harley.

“I’m trying to kick cancer’s ass,” Cherie Mathews said. Mathews was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 at the age of 40 and eventually underwent a double mastectomy, but Mathews doesn’t feel sorry for herself. In fact, she is mad at breast cancer, and she’s fighting back.

Mathews is helping Austin women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer heal comfortably through her specially designed healincomfort shirts. A project that stemmed from a lesson learned the hard way after a painful recovery after surgery. She is also keeping morale high through her annual Support Crew motorcycle rides she organizes with Cowboy Harley.

A motorcycle rider for 33 years, Mathews was confronted with the juxtaposition between her life with breast cancer and her life as she had previously known it. Upon leaving the hospital after her surgery, a group of bikers passed by. Mathews described it like a scene straight out of a movie – with wind in their hair, smiles on their faces and not a care in the world. A world Mathews had known long before her diagnosis. “I knew what that felt like, but they didn’t know what I felt like,” Mathews said. “One represented ultimate freedom, the other [breast cancer] was ultimate captivity.” After that day, Mathews wanted to bring awareness that bikers care about breast cancer patients too. That is why she began the Support Crew Rides.

This October 23rd will mark the 2nd Annual Ride with Cowboy Harley. Approximately 100-to-150 bikers don their pink and ride with a police escort to St. David’s Hospital to meet with breast cancer patients and survivors. It’s Mathews’ way to give the patients something different – something to look forward to. And if rounding up Austin’s bikers doesn’t sound like enough, Mathews is busy 24/7 with her other project – healincomfort shirts. Starting her business with just $1,000 might seem like a crazy feat, but Mathews has built her business from the ground up. She saw a niche she needed to fill, so she began healincomfort – self referred to as a “for-profit business with a conscience.”

She came up with the idea for these shirts after her own surgery. She was laying in bed in a man’s hoodie, because it hurt to put on any of her own shirts. In fact, it was the only time Mathews cried – out of frustration because she couldn’t find anything to wear. Mathews wanted to make sure no other woman would feel the way she felt. So she designed the healincomfort shirts. The blue shirts are made out of the softest moisture management material that took her a year to find. There are Velcro openings up the middle so no buttons to hassle with, and internal pockets to hold the drains. Her goal is that her shirts will be hospital issue one day. While her main focus is on Austin women, Mathews has requests from across the U.S. One of her shirts has even hopped the pond to its recipient in England. “Clothing has an impact on your psyche,” she said. “People feel like this is an extension of a hug from a survivor.

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