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Giving cancer patients the spa experience

November 09, 2017

Breast cancer not only is a life-altering experience — many times it physically alters how a person looks and feels, which can adversely affect a woman’s ability to complete treatment.

“We’ve seen women suffer severe psychological setbacks following a mastectomy or chemotherapy because they’ve lost one or both of their breasts or they don’t have hair,” says Elizabeth Koelker, executive director of oncology at Kettering Health Network. “Research shows that women who look like they used to before surgery and chemo are more committed to their treatment, and have reduced emotional side effects and better outcomes.”

To help women with appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment, Kettering Health Network included a boutique in its new cancer center located in the Pavilion across from the Kettering Medical Center campus.

Renew Boutique and Spa offers products designed to help cancer patients look their best, including high-quality mastectomy bras and prostheses, premium wigs with natural looking hair, skincare products to treat radiation burns, certified organic makeup that is gentle on the skin, and fashion items and accessories,

“Our goal was to create an experience that’s very non-clinical for cancer patients,” says Chrissie Richards, director of retail services for Kettering Health Network. “When they walk into Renew, we want them to feel like they’re being pampered. In fact, we don’t refer to them as patients, we refer to them as our guests.”

Koelker and Richards received input from the network’s Patient Advisory Council during the design phase of the boutique. The council consisted of cancer patients, survivors, family members and physicians who were involved in every stage of planning for the Kettering Cancer Center.

Guest privacy was a key concern so wigs, prostheses and private fitting rooms are in the back of the boutique.

Guests who need bras, prostheses and compression garments receive help from a certified fitter. “It’s important for women to get professionally fitted for these products versus ordering them online,” explains Koelker. “We encourage women who’ve had lymph nodes removed to get professionally fitted for a compression garment. The garments are supposed to be tight and the fitter can provide them with the right size and offer the woman reassurance about how it’s going to feel and why.”

The boutique has made a significant impact in the lives of its guests. “Debbie Adams, the Renew manager, helped a woman who had gone through two reconstruction surgeries,” Richards says. “Debbie had the expertise to fit her with the right bra and prosthesis. This woman was in tears and told us, ‘I’m not going to have any more surgeries. You got me to where I need to be and I feel great!’ She visits the boutique regularly to let us know how grateful she is. That’s just one of many success stories.”