Breast cancer support group
Over the past year, at Augusta Health’s breast cancer support group meetings, women have confidentially shared how they felt during the first weeks of their diagnosis. A common theme emerged: feeling vulnerable, not knowing how cancer would affect them, especially their appearance. Discussions about the Cancer Center’s Appearance Shop often ensued. Donna Berdeaux, RN, BSN, group leader and breast oncology nurse navigator, saw an opportunity to ameliorate these initial diagnosis feelings.
Open for nearly 10 years, the Boutique serves the community by offering a free wig to women who are losing their hair due to chemotherapy. In 2016, bras and prostheses [breast forms] were added to serve mastectomy patients.
Berdeaux’s vision was to reduce this feeling of helplessness by improving the store to be more welcoming and calming. Support group members Patty Piccinino, Carol Cobb and Suzie VanValkenburg worked with Berdeaux and appearance shop coordinator Kim Glover.
Since most cancer patients initially visit the Boutique with their partner, family member or friends, it is important to make a good first impression. The first step in improving the space was to reorganize the inventory. Head coverings such as scarves, turbans and hats have been moved to the entrance walls, making them colorful. The wigs have been pulled back for a more natural flow. Since not every patient needs a mastectomy, bras have been moved to the back to be less intimidating.
The team worked with facilities to open up the space by removing non-essentials, including a large desk. A quiet space consisting of two chairs, a small table and a rug has been added. Now is an ideal setting for a meaningful conversation about a woman’s next makeover.
Based on suggestions from the support group, a variety of headgear options have been added to better suit different life activities. The support group recently started making earrings to give away for free when a woman chooses a head covering. Pearl earrings will add a touch of glamor and fun to your new look.
“I couldn’t believe the difference. I could feel the warmth and calm. It’s amazing how the whole vibe has changed just by making a few changes,” commented a recent breast cancer survivor.
This project also included the creation of a new flyer promoting Boutique Appearances. In addition, a new process has been developed to thank donors for their physical donations to the Boutique and the Cancer Center. A future project is to work to increase financial support for the Boutique so that it can continue to offer a variety of headgear.
Contributions may be made to the Appearance Fund through the Augusta Health Foundation. Visit https://www.augustahealth.com/foundation/ for more information.