How a breast cancer scare inspired the making of the award-winning mastectomy pillow, the Billow (breast + pillow)
After a 15-year career as a Wall Street professional, Marnie Rustemeyer decided to say goodbye to the financial district to start her own healthcare business focusing on women’s wellness. It may have seemed like a drastic switch for some, but for Marnie, it was a natural transition.
Inspired by her own breast cancer experience, Marnie conceived, designed and created the Billow Pillow– a mastectomy recovery pillow for post-mastectomy patients like no other. What started off as an idea during her own recovery following a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgeries, Billow has turned into a thriving business which has the potential to help millions of women across the globe.
Back in 2013, Marnie, a West Virginia native who used to live in New York City, tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation, which greatly increases a person’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer. After exploring her options, Marnie elected to undergo a double mastectomy. Since her risk was also high for ovarian cancer, she also had a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.
“It was very difficult to make the decision; I think I can look at it as a blessing and a curse, in some ways,” she said.
Recovery after mastectomy
Marnie, who tends to sleep on her side and stomach, found it difficult to rest comfortably after her surgery and began exploring her options. There were speciality pillows, but she found them all cheaply made and oddly shaped.
“I was unprepared for the pain and discomfort following both procedures. In my quest to find a pillow during my recovery that would allow me to sleep and rest comfortably, I was extremely discouraged to find there was absolutely nothing acceptable on the market.
“It was then that I decided to create something that could help me be more comfortable. During one of many sleepless nights, it also occurred to me there were other women in my position who could use something to help them too.”
The businesswoman, who has also battled thyroid cancer, added: “I became extremely enthusiastic about creating a pillow to fill a personal need and also bring a product to market that could help the millions of other women who suffer from breast discomfort.”
Researching the Billow Pillow
After a year of research and development, the Billow mastectomy pillow was created.
“Billow became a project that gave me something positive to focus on during my recovery,” the entrepreneur explained.
“Part of my research meant putting my breasts on a lot of different pillows, testing different fillings and materials and shapes and sizes. I also researched the pillow market, breast pillow market, breast cancer and surgery statistics, and general statistics regarding women, breasts, health and wellness. This was all new to me and took time and patience.”
The Billow pillow is a functional mastectomy pillow that helps provide relief from the discomfort you may experience when lying down, particularly for long durations. The Billow Pillow’s patent-pending ergonomic design not only offers support for your breasts but also the back, underarm and neck.
Keeping in mind the many sensitivities the skin and body go through during surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Marnie designed the mastectomy pillow with 100% organic, hypoallergenic, chemical-free and cruelty-free materials. The Billow gives women a soft yet supportive full body hug that helps them feel secure and comforted while sleeping, resting or even getting massage therapy.
Now in its fourth year, Marnie hopes to continue to support women throughout their journey with breast cancer find comfort and relief so they may rest better, feel better and recover faster.
Below, is a video demonstration of the Billow Pillow, featuring founder Marnie: