'When Life hands you Lemons'…adversity helps others cope in treatment

Deb Papes-Stanzak care-gave to family members who were receiving treatment for terminal illnesses. In their discomfort came an idea that now helps many others.

The old adage: “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” is true.  But you have to 1) squeeze them into the pitcher, 2) add sweetness 3) share the goodness!  With that said, I share my ‘lemonade’ story.

 Since I was 10, the fashion industry dominated my thoughts.  Starting with learning to sew, landing my first job as a sewing instructor for Sears at age 16; going to college for Fashion Merchandising, and beginning a lifelong career in textiles and apparel, I couldn't get enough.   Upon graduation, I landed a position as an Assistant Buyer in Fabrics for the May Co, Cleveland.  My fashion career went on for the next 35 years.  I got married in 1992 and had my only child, Jaime in 1996.  Life continued on--working, raising a son, being a wife, caring for a home. 

 Here come the lemons…  In 2001, my husband Gary was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare cancer of the blood in the bone marrow.  In 2004, my brother Ron ended up in the ER with complications from diabetes, and my mother, who Ron lived with and helped take care of, ended up in the ER the next day with congestive heart failure.  My mother-in–law fell and broke her hip shortly thereafter, and my father-in-law's health was failing.  With my husband ill with cancer, we had to move his parents to assisted living, then to a nursing home.

 Add the sweetness…This went on for the next several years:  my husband on chemotherapy, my mother getting blood transfusions, and my brother Ron on dialysis and my in-laws in and out of the hospital. They all complained of the same things:  it was cold in the treatment centers, and it was very immodest—especially in a hospital gown.  My brother Ron was the first to complain as he had dialysis treatments three times a week for four hours each.  I wanted to fix the problem, so as a seamstress, I made him a makeshift warm fleece shirt with a zipper in the arm.  I brought it to the hospital and said, “Here, try this.  Just put on the warm shirt, unzip, connect to your port, get your treatment, and stay warm”.  The next day he told me everyone wanted one and I would be a millionaire.  I had no time to produce anymore, as I was caregiving for the other family members also, as well as tending to a young son and ill husband. 

Share the goodness…My brother passed away in 2005, my mom in 2006 and my husband in January of 2008—and HIS dad died 10 days later.   Now what?  How do I go back to a busy retail job—nights, weekends, holidays, and leave my then, 11-year-old son, who lost all those who helped raise him, alone?  I couldn’t.  So per my doctor, who asked what I was going to do for the rest of my life, I sat down with a couple nurses, and redesigned what I now manufacture for all chemo, dialysis and infusion patients:  RonWear Port-able Clothing®.  Named after my brother Ron, I have built a treatment clothing company that is helps all patients with ports be warm and comfortable.  RonWear put the ‘band aid on the bubble’ that my brother, mother and husband lived in with their diseases.

So from lemons, to lemonade, my adversity isn’t so adverse anymore.  We lost 4, but now we can help thousands stay warm, comfortable and dignified in RonWear.

Deb Papes-Stanzak is the Founder/CEO of RonWear Port-able Clothing® which provides clothing for chemotherapy, dialysis and other infusion therapy.  Her business is based in Beachwood, Oh. 

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Susan Ruiz Patton June 24, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Thanks Deb for sharing your inspiring story.
Melissa Hebert June 24, 2012 at 03:52 PM
We got a Ronwear outfit for my mother-in-law, who was in dialysis the final year of her life. She loved it because she could stay warm and clothed while getting her treatment three times a week. Thanks again, Deb, for such a terrific product.


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