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New Boutique Offers Hope

February 27, 2008
New boutique offers hope By Betta Ferrendelli write the author January 31, 2008 In December 2006, Carol LaBelle-Ehrhardt was giving herself a routine breast exam when her breath rose and caught in her throat. Exempla Lutheran Medical Center's Cancer Resource RN Linda Fiske has been trained to fit breast cancer survivors with prostheses and bras which are available at Hope's Corner in the Infusion Care Unit. The cancer specialty boutique carries items that patients undergoing treatment may need, such as books, inspirational jewelry, wigs, turbans, hats, non-aluminum deodorant and skin care products. She felt something she didn't like: Four small lumps in her right breast. She wasted no time going to the doctor. Her worst fears were realized when the results came back. One of the lumps was benign. The others were not. She wasn't surprised, really. "Breast cancer runs in my family," said the 44-year-old mother of four. Newly diagnosed with breast cancer, she stared in the mirror. Her image reflected disbelief. A thought hummed like a bass note in her head. "I have cancer?" But LaBelle-Ehrhardt said she was lucky. Her cancer wasn't terminal. "It didn't bother me like I thought it would," she said. "It wasn't a death sentence and the survival rates are huge." And because LaBelle-Ehrhardt's cancer was detected so early — following two lumpectomies, seven weeks of radiation and 16 weeks of chemotherapy — she is cancer free. Today she is a survivor who volunteers one day a week at Hope's Corner at Lutheran Medical Center to help other women going through the same journey. Hope's Corner in LMC's Infusion Care opened in November to help women with cancer get through the long and difficult process a little bit easier. The boutique offers products for those dealing with cancer that include turbans, hats, scarves, and skin care products, mastectomy bras and prostheses to lymphedema supplies. The boutique also carries a special line of pajamas and pillowcases designed with a material that helps women with cancer when they get hot flashes, a side effect from chemotherapy. The boutique also offers products, books and candles to those who have a strong connection to the cancer patient, such as friends, caregivers and family members. The boutique also has wigs for cancer patients who have lost their hair and a specially trained volunteer from the American Cancer Society is part of the boutique to help women with those fittings, said Amanda Childs, community relationship manager with the American Cancer Society. The boutique is open to anyone who has cancer. The goal of Hope's Corner is simple: "It's in the name," said Linda Fiske, coordinator for Hope's Corner and the cancer resource center. "Hope means different things to different people with cancer," Fiske said. "For someone who is terminal, hope might be having some good quality days before they die." The opening of Hope's Corner culminated nearly six years of work with the American Cancer Society to open the boutique and the cancer resource center, which supplies informational materials to people who have cancer. Childs concurred with Fiske regarding the message Hope's Corner wants to convey. "Our goal is helping patients who need that hope and who need to make that experience a little more positive," she said. Fiske runs the day-to-day operations at Hope's Corner. She has been a nurse for more than 25 years (14 years in the cancer services department at LMC), and cancer has touched her family in more ways than one. Her son died of bone cancer in 1990 and, like LaBelle-Ehrhardt, she, too, is a breast cancer survivor. After her son's death, Fiske moved into the oncology department as a way of giving back. "We received so much support," Fiske said of her son's experience. "Through the cancer experience people need extra support from people who are kind and caring." The boutique is staffed only with volunteers. Some haven't had the disease. Others, such as LaBelle-Ehrhardt, are there to help those who can let their guard down when they realize they are talking to someone who has had cancer and can relate. Once this particular Wednesday afternoon, LaBelle-Ehrhardt helped a women with leukemia try on hats. LaBelle-Ehrhardt nods knowingly "when I was going through this," she said, gently letting the woman know she, too, has been there. Words of truth help many women to open up, LaBelle-Ehrhardt said. When the woman with leukemia learned of LaBelle-Ehrhardt's battle with breast cancer, she promptly asked, "How soon will I lose my hair?" It is by helping these women at Hope's Corner that gives LaBelle-Ehrhardt hope that others will benefit from her cancer experience. "I received so much support through my treatment that I wanted to give back," she said.