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Web Exclusive: Breast cancer patients find comfort in healing chair

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(CNN/KSDK) - A woman's chance of living at least five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer has gone up from 50% in the 1970's to 85%. But modern science doesn't get all the credit for the healing, sometimes you just need to pull up a chair, which is exactly what some women in Missouri have been doing.

In this Missouri home, nobody is a stranger, even though some of these women have never met. Carol Mullenix invited them over to talk about, of all things, a piece of furniture.  Mullenix takes great pride in decorating.

"I don't know, I just love it, " says Mullenix.  The only thing constant about her style is change. "I love to paint, " Mullenix says. "And so I have painted this house a lot and my husband says we're going to re-measure if we ever move because the walls are coming in on us."

But all the women agree that there is one piece that truly stands out.  "It's quite hideous, "says Patti Otto.  "No, it's not a good looking chair, "adds Carol.

This is "Big Brown", as one of the ladies calls it.  And though it doesn't have wheels, it's been on quite a journey.  "I brought it here, and I said Carol here's a recliner this is for you, "says Molly Vitale.

Vitale bought the chair for Carol after Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. "And so it was very uncomfortable to lay in bed and with this I could put my arms up and it was comfortable," says Carol.

While Carol was recovering, Mary Jo Meitel had just been diagnosed for the second time.  "It's kind of a dark moment, a dark time, "she remembers.  Carol heard about Mary Jo through a friend of a friend and thought she could use the chair.

"Looking at that chair every day I knew that I had people that loved me and supported me and so I knew I could get up and walk again and feel good again and be happy and healthy," says Meitel.

After Mary Jo was feeling better, she passed it on.  "I would literally go to chemo, come home get a glass of water and I'd be in the chair all day long," remembers Julie Hutson.

No matter where you sit, when it comes to cancer there is no such thing as an easy chair. The diagnosis can be devastating.  "I was home alone and it was terrible, "says an emotional Patty Otto. 

But seven women have now been embraced by "Big Brown" as they recovered so they've given it a new name. "The healing chair".

"I think the healing chair is so appropriate. It fits," says Meitel.

Strangers no more, they're now discussing ways to get more chairs to more patients. Just like the wood and fabric, these women are now fastened together by a shared experience.

"We've all gone through this breast cancer that's so scary and so unknown and we've come through it and we're ok. We're ok, "says Mullenix.

"The healing chair" helping women with cancer get back on their feet.  "In its own way, it's beautiful," says Otto.

Of course, one chair just isn't enough, so these women are getting together to try and raise money for more chairs for more patients.  You can contact them on their Facebook page called: "The Healing Chair."

 

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