U alum comforts cancer patients

Former student Connor Cosgrove designed a clothing line for people with cancer.

Olivia Johnson

When former University of Minnesota football player Connor Cosgrove was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, doctors surgically implanted a disc-shaped port in his chest to help with his treatment.
 
Cosgrove had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which can require long-term chemotherapy and countless pokes from needles.
 
His experience grew into the creation of the clothing company called ComfPort, which sells shirts with a flap disguised as a chest pocket especially for cancer patients who have a port. The company will officially start up in about 10 days.
 
The port, which rests just under the skin, runs a catheter into a neck vein, making chemotherapy infusion processes easier for doctors and less painful for patients, said Cosgrove, who has been cancer-free since January 2014.
 
“It’s a minor surgical procedure to install them,” said Dr. Emil Lou, a gastrointestinal oncologist in the University’s Department of Medicine. “It’s not painful at all. It looks like a little bump under the skin.”
 
After being diagnosed with leukemia in September of 2010, Cosgrove had to immediately drop out of the University where he was pursuing a business degree.
 
“I had 10 months of intense treatment. I had chemo from one to five times a week, depending on the treatment I was going through,” Cosgrove said.
 
Lou said some forms of chemotherapy treatment take up to two days and the port makes it easier to get the medicine into the patient’s body.
 
“At the same time, it’s kind of painful because you have this foreign object that’s just [lodged] in your chest for a long period of time,” Cosgrove said.
 
The cumbersome location of the port on the body makes it difficult to access without removing clothes and donning a hospital gown.
 
Keeping clothes on during chemotherapy can cause the IV tubes to pull on skin, which was painful, Cosgrove said.
 
“I didn’t get to dress like I normally would,” Cosgrove said. “So having to wear a hospital gown on top of already being sick made me feel and look like a sick person.”
 
While he was undergoing chemotherapy, Cosgrove called his brother, Clint Cosgrove, about his idea to make a shirt that would allow patients to keep their clothes on during treatments in the hospital, something he couldn’t find for sale.
 
At the time, his brother was working as a football coach at Dartmouth College, a job that restricted him from being with his family during Connor Cosgrove’s treatment.
 
Clint Cosgrove began researching everything required to start a clothing company and produce the shirts.
 
“I told him … I would do everything that I could to help him make this a reality,” Clint Cosgrove said. “With me not being there, that’s kind of how we bonded, and that was our way to connect.”
 
The two brothers started making shirts on their own in 2012 and began the process to turn their idea into a company after that.
 
It took two and a half years to design shirts that were functional but looked normal, decide on a fabric, find a pattern-maker and raise money, Connor Cosgrove said.
 
“When we started, we knew nothing about fashion,” Clint Cosgrove said.
 
The two also had limited knowledge when it came to starting a company. Connor Cosgrove didn’t yet have his degree in business and marketing education, which he received
in May, when he started the company. His brother had worked in business for only a year.
 
Connor Cosgrove started a Kickstarter campaign in April, ultimately raising more than $38,000 from 455 backers through the website, $8,000 more than the target.
 
And for every shirt the company sells, it donates one to a cancer patient.
 
“The interest is huge. A lot of it is parents looking for ways to, you know, provide comfort for their children,” Clint Cosgrove said. “We hear from people every day that are waiting for the shirts.”