Sharon Ben-Or
Dr. Sharon Ben-Or uses her stress-relieving hobby to also comfort cancer patients. Photo by Will Crooks.

As a 9-year-old girl, Sharon Ben-Or learned knitting as a tool in math class. Many years later, the Greenville thoracic surgeon continues to knit, but now with a different purpose.

Ben-Or credits her fourth grade teacher for her knitting skills. “She’s the one who’s really helping these patients,” she says. “If she hadn’t taught me, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

Now that she’s conquered multiplication, Ben-Or knits pillows for her patients. But not the type of pillow you’re imagining. 

“I was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago,” she says. “I had a port for chemotherapy and they gave me a port pillow, which is a pillow you put under your seatbelt.”

The port pillow acts as a cushion between the port and seatbelt to prevent irritation.

Sharon Ben-Or
Ben-Or realized the usefulness of port pillows when she had a port. Photo by Will Crooks.

Usually the caretaker, Ben-Or experienced first-hand the journey of being a patient, but she believes her pain led to purpose.

“Maybe this was just a weird way for me to help my patients,” she says. “A lot of patients have disclosed to me that they feel better knowing they have a physician who’s been through this and understands.”

While she doesn’t share her cancer story with every patient, Ben-Or tells those who need comfort in knowing someone truly understands their pain. “I don’t want to take away from their story,” she says.

Making the port pillows allows Ben-Or to form connections with her patients. “It’s a moment where I can bond with them,” she says. “But I just want to be able to let them know that even though my time with them might be brief, that it’s still important.”

Sharon Ben-Or
Ben-Or spends about one hour making one port pillow. Photo by Will Crooks.

Ben-Or has worked in the Prisma Health Division of Thoracic Surgery for the past five years. “I operate on everything in the chest but the heart,” she says.

Although she’s finished her chemotherapy, Ben-Or has ongoing treatment and doctor appointments. “Everything’s been looking good,” she says, “but there’s always the anxiety when you have that followup because you don’t know.”

Experiencing the isolation and anxiety of fighting cancer, she hopes to offer understanding and comfort to her patients. “Every time I knit something, I feel like I’m putting a part of myself in it,” Ben-Or says.

Did you know?

Thoracic surgery includes operations for diseases of the chest. This may involve either benign or malignant conditions of the lung, pleura, esophagus, or mediastinum. (Source: ghs.org)

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