Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Name the O'Bleness Wig Boutique

by Ellen Schnier

Women who have lost their hair to cancer treatment can now get free wigs, hats and bandanas in Athens. Before the wig boutique opened at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital, patients had to drive to Parkersburg or Columbus for help.

Help at Hand
Volunteer Manager Susan Kozak says the last thing women on chemotherapy or radiation want to do is travel an hour or two for supplies. With this program, women can receive treatment and cosmetic assistance in one place. "And just being able to lift them up in so many ways and make things a little easier for them at no cost" is important, Kozak says. Being able to provide this service provides both mental and physical relief to women "because there are so many costs and different kinds of stress with cancer in and of itself," she says.

Volunteer Manager Susan Kazok on how the wig boutique enables women with cancer to feel better about themselves.

Getting the boutique ready to hand out wigs has been about a year in the making. The wigs are donated by the American Cancer Society as well as community members. At O'Bleness Hospital, women can make appointments to try them on and have them fitted. In addition, the American Cancer Society holds Look Good...Feel Better meetings every third Tuesday, during which licensed cosmetologists do make-overs for patients. This boosts their confidence and their self-image while undergoing treatments that significantly change their appearance.

The Seeds of an Idea
Nancy Kasler is a breast cancer survivor and regular volunteer at O'Bleness who planted the seeds for the construction of the new boutique. She says how a woman feels about herself makes a difference in her quality of life while receiving treatment.

"You need to feel good about yourself even if you're sick. And people want you to stay up and keep an upbeat feeling, but that's really hard when you look into the mirror and you absolutely hate what you see," Kasler says. Getting on with your regular life as much as possible, she says, is important to help your recovery.

Nancy Kasler talks about where she got the idea to start a boutique in Athens.

She had the idea for the program in Athens after her daughter and sister were also diagnosed with cancer. She says the strength she found in dealing with disease in her family gave her the strength to reach out to others. She says about her sister, "She really couldn't buy things, and I had to go to Columbus to buy hats for her. She ordered a wig through a magazine because there wasn't any place here to go and try a wig on. And she was mostly in a wheelchair and didn't get around very well." Her daughter had similar problems and relied on the Look Good...Feel Better program to learn how to apply makeup.

Name the Boutique
The room is painted purple, which is the color that represents cancer survivors. To celebrate the opening, O'Bleness is having a contest to name the new boutique. An award of $100 will be given to the Athens resident who creates the most inspiring and clever name for the room.

Kozak says they have received wonderful ideas so far. "In fact, several of the entries have given very uplifting and inspirational remarks about what we're doing or trying to do with the wig bank and the services we offer." Some of the ladies who have gone through the Look Good...Feel Better program said that the wigs made a difference and may be offering suggestions for the contest.

To enter the naming contest, submit your name, the idea for the boutique, address, phone number and/or email address to:

O'Bleness Memorial Hospital
Community Relations Department
Boutique Naming Contest
55 Hospital Drive
Athens, OH 45701

Or email

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