No wonder Greg Hamilton felt as if he was freezing.
Even if the medicine entering his veins was room temperature, he pointed out, that’s about 25 degrees colder than the average body temperature.
Adding to the chill of his rigorous chemotherapy treatments was the frequent need for nurses to ask him “to practically disrobe” so they could reach the infusion site as they helped him fight osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
Hamilton’s wife, Ellen, who grew up in Bear Creek Township, had an idea that cutting holes in a sweatshirt would give nurses access to strategic points on his arm and chest, but the result “looked kind of ragged.”
Together, she and Greg refined the idea and designed the Chemo Cozy, a fleece jacket with several discreet zippers that open so medical staff can access a patient’s port, PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line or forearm.
Knowing firsthand that a patient might appreciate some entertainment during treatments that can last for hours, Greg Hamilton also included in the jacket a special pocket ideal for an iPod or phone.
As a final touch, the couple gave the jacket a logo with the words “think happy” next to a smile.
“When you’re bald and gray-skinned, you need a smile,” said Greg Hamilton, who has been fighting the bone cancer since 2010.
After Greg’s Aunt Pam sewed the prototype, the couple sought financial backers through the kickstarter.com website, found a manufacturer and filled their two-car garage with thousands of jackets in several colors. They have men’s and women’s sizes and expect eventually to have child-size jackets as well.
On a recent Friday afternoon the Hamiltons and their 4-year-old son, Jack, who live in Wayne, Delaware County, came to visit Ellen’s parents, Mollie and John Wills of Wright Township. They wanted to participate in a toy drive for the needy at a St. Nicholas Day Mass — young Jack brought a toy helicopter for that purpose — and they stopped by The Times Leader to show off the Chemo Cozy.
Hamilton, who recently completed a round of radiation treatments at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said he was feeling pretty good.
“I do get winded after running up a flight of stairs,” he admitted after a trip back to the car for more fleece jackets. “But otherwise I feel great.”
An architect by trade, Hamilton knew patient input was valuable when he designed hospital oncology units.
Certainly, he’d rather not be a cancer patient himself.
“Let’s face it, cancer stinks,” he proclaims on the Chemo Cozy website.
But he is glad he was able to use his hard-earned knowledge to help others.
“What initially began as a desire to make a difficult experience a little better has turned into a quest to make the same hardship more comfortable for everyone enduring chemotherapy and infusion treatments,” he wrote.