Lavender Touch dream given a designer boost

CONSTANTLY dripping with sweat, pyjamas and bedsheets soaked through and sticking to your body, yet unable to get up and change them because of the ravages of cancer and the side-effects of treatment.

For many people that is a reality of living with the disease, but now a Borders textile designer and former cancer patient has come up with a revolutionary garment aimed at helping those enduring such dreadful nightime drenches and boost the vital work of a local charity.

The charity involved is The Lavender Touch, which next year celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Founded in 2003 by Heather Runciman, from Lauder, Galashiels photographer Sheila Scott, and award-winning complementary therapist Jan Beattie, from Selkirk, it has helped more than 2,000 Borders families with its complementary therapy treatments.

These can help alleviate some of the symptoms experienced by those living with cancer, such as insomnia, muscle aches and pains, anxiety, low mood and nausea.

In its near-decade of existence, The Lavender Touch has grown and now boasts 13 therapists and a co-ordinator who works in conjunction with NHS Borders.

Anyone who lives in this region and has cancer is eligible for treatment, as are those who spend most of their time and energy looking after someone living with the disease.

It costs £25,000 per year to run the service and it is hoped that designer Pauline Birse’s new sleepwear will not only help those living with cancer, but bring in much-needed money to expand the service and realise a long-held dream of opening a Lavender Touch Centre.

Just over three years ago Pauline approached Sheila and Jan with the idea for her new sleepwear, after benefitting from The Lavender Touch service.

“I felt so much better after using The Lavender Touch that I wanted to repay them for what they did for me,” Pauline said.

First-hand experience of the terrible excessive drenching symptoms had left her determined to use the expertise garnered from a 30-year career in textile design and manufacture to benefit other people living with cancer and the charity.

“I would wake up five or six times a night, absolutely frozen with dripping wet pyjamas stuck to my entire body, due to the side effects of chemotherapy,” Pauline told us.

“I was not able to get out of bed, to change my pyjamas and the sheets as well.

“The reality of a cold sweat is a constantly frozen neck and bald head, and every half hour it feels like standing in snow naked.

“Water runs down your arms, legs and back – it drips into your eyes from your bald head because you also have no eyebrows.

“I would never have imagined the trauma of going to bed every night until I experienced it for myself.”

But over the last three years Pauline and The Lavender Touch have worked closely to turn her sleepwear design to reality.

A community enterprise company has now been created and is due to take delivery of its first batch of 100 pairs of ‘Bamboo Touch – Drench to Dry Sleepwear’, to give it its proper title.

Patients who have trialled the new sleepwear have praised its benefits, with comments such as “a life-saver”, “changed my life” and “look forward to putting them on at night”.

Extremely soft and comfortable to wear, the sleepwear is completely natural and is 60 per cent more absorbent than cotton, boasting extreme wicking and anti-bacterial properties, and offering unrivalled dryness.

At Pauline’s request, money raised from the sales of the unisex garments will go to The Lavender Touch, as well as aiding the development of other products to assist those living with cancer.

But until further funding is available, it has only been possible to produce an initial 100 sets of sleepwear.

Sheila explained: “We cannot take it to a worldwide market as we couldn’t afford to stock any quantity which would be sufficient to handle any orders we would receive .”

That could all change if a new appeal is successful in bringing to fruition a long-cherished dream held by Sheila and Jan.

The two women have always wanted to develop the service further with the creation of a dedicated Lavender Touch 

They hope Pauline’s sleepwear could be the catalyst to make that happen, with plans for the charity to mark its 10th year by setting itself the huge target of raising £150,000 to create that specialist facility.

A property has been identified in the central Borders, which is within easy reach of the BGH, the local Macmillan Centre and the new Margaret Kerr Unit.

“If funds could be raised, we would create a centre as a community resource and meeting place for cancer patients, carers, therapists and the general public – outwith a medical environment,” explained Sheila.

“This centre could become the focus of The Lavender Touch cancer service in the Borders, taking forward ideas and products to benefit people living with cancer.”

TO help mark the 10th anniversary of The Lavender Touch, TheSouthern is joining forces with the charity as its media sponsor for 2013.

Every month throughout the coming year, we will run feature articles in support of the charity and its dream of creating a dedicated centre.

We will publish reports and photographs from any fundraising events, which have already kicked off with the fantastic sum of £1,631.50 from the Zumbathon staged recently by Norrie Smith and Amanda Richard.

Anyone who would like to offer any help, financially or otherwise, should call 07932 174317 or email

Alternately, you can visit the website at

The new sleepwear can be ordered using the same contact details and if orders exceed the quantity available, details will be taken for the future.

Full funding for the sleepwear is available from Callum’s Trust for those undergoing treatment for lymphoma, leukaemia or myeloma, just call 01896 757887, or email

Patients can also make enquiries through their Macmillan nurse.

z Women members of Lauderdale Rotary are donating their fundraising efforts from a Christmas Craft Fair, being held this Saturday in The Lauderdale Hotel, to the fund. The event runs from 11am-4pm.