Shirley Caparn has been cancer-free since 1984. But she’s reminded of it every day, because she lost her right breast during the surgery that saved her life.
So she’s become a fan of Flourish Boutique, UVA’s new boutique for cancer patients and survivors. Before Flourish opened, Caparn purchased bras for her prosthetic breast at other shops. But they didn’t have nearly the selection or the customer service, she says. “Charlottesville had a need for something like this,” she says.
UVA staff and volunteers began to recognize that need five years ago while planning the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center. At that time, the Hospital Auxiliary, a group of volunteers and staff, began researching what other cancer centers had in their gift shops.
“What we found was that these cancer centers were carrying specialty items for cancer patients,” says Susan Morris, a volunteer who is co-chair of the Flourish committee. “They were anything but gift shops.”
The auxiliary reached out to patients and hospital staff to find out what products Cancer Center patients needed. It began planning a shop that would sell items such as:
- Custom-fitted mastectomy bras and prostheses
- Wigs and head covers
- Men and women’s skin care products for chemotherapy- and radiation-damaged skin
- Recipe books for patients who can’t consume solid food or have no appetite
- Support books
The Flourish committee also included Ramona’s Room, which offers free wigs, scarves and other head covers to patients who cannot afford them. Ramona’s Room was named after longtime Women’s Club member Ramona Scott Burwell, who died of cancer in 1995, and is funded by the Women’s Club and other donors.
Gifts That Lift Spirits
Flourish also carries items to lift the spirits of patients and survivors, including jewelry and t-shirts. Flourish volunteer Marsha Miller recently selected a “Cancer sucks” t-shirt for her niece, who is undergoing treatment in Boston for colon cancer. “She wore it to therapy, and everyone asked where she got it.” Miller, a 5-year uterine cancer survivor, has also sent her niece jewelry, lotion and queasy pops – lollipops that help nausea. “I buy whatever is in the shop that I think will make her feel good,” she says.
Interested in checking out Flourish? Learn more and get directions.
Flourish coordinator LaTisha Barnes puts a lot of thought into what products will help her customers physically and emotionally. She selects many of Flourish’s products and is also certified to fit patients for prosthetic breasts and mastectomy bras. Customers, including Caparn, love her. “They leave happy,” Barnes says. “I want them to be comfortable with what they have on, I want them to know why it fits properly, and most of all, I want them to tell me if they don’t like something about it.”
Barnes hopes that the bras and jewelry don’t scare away the men. “We offer hats as well and have a skin care product for them,” she said. “When they poke their head in here and get ready to poke it back out, I talk to them so they know we offer things they can use.”