Cancer survivors get a positive outlook

Published Apr 10, 2013 at 8:49 am (Updated Apr 10, 2013 at 8:49 am)

Cancer. Just the word is distressing and can put anyone in a tailspin. But hearing a doctor’s positive diagnosis can be just about the worst feeling of all.

Although it’s traumatic for both women and men, cancer in a woman affects not only how she feels about herself but how others see her, too. Chemo can zap all the body’s strength, but when it causes hair loss in women, it’s definitely depressing, creating a major break in confidence. And for those wanting to head back to a job, re-entering the workforce can be challenging.

Fortunately, organizations and individuals are out there with a focus to help cancer-surviving women. Women feel exposed since their outward sign signifies that life has dealt a major change. Caring people do what they can to help, smoothing the process of jump starting a seemingly lost career.

And we can’t put aside women as housewives and mothers with cancer who are also in need of support and encouragement. Help is just as important. Caring for a home and raising children needs a woman who can maintain a positive outlook, all the while looking and feeling as normal as possible.

Through the American Cancer Society, St. Clair Hospital recently became a host facility of a Free Wig Salon. Community women residents who have experienced hair loss due to chemotherapy are encouraged to take advantage of the free service.

“This program is designed to help women manage this impact cancer has had on their lives,” said Georgianne Williams, director of Volunteer Services, St. Clair Hospital.

Trained assistance is provided to help with style, length and color. The American Cancer Society supplies good quality synthetic as well as human hair wigs, valued from $350-$1,000. The purpose is wanting each woman to be comfortable with their choice and to walk out the door feeling good about themselves.

A private fitting area is located in the Oncology Education Resource Center on the hospital’s fifth floor. Community women should first call the ACS at 1-800-227-2345. Personal information will be forwarded to the hospital’s Volunteer Services Department for appointment scheduling, and there is no need for medical insurance or a doctor’s referral.

“It’s very gratifying to provide this free wig service to local women affected by radiation and chemotherapy,” said Rosemary Miller, RN, oncology nurse manager, St. Clair Hospital. “It may seem like a simple thing, but you can see the joy and relief in each woman’s face. By returning a woman’s appearance and femininity, her quality of life is impacted in a very positive way. This is one small way that we can help a cancer survivor feel normal again.”

With compassion and caring and knowing full well the devastation cancer can cause, St. Clair Hospital volunteer Shirley Mur will guide clients through the process. Also a cancer survivor, Shirley has volunteered at the hospital for more than 400 hours since November 2010, and is well aware of how important this free service and personal support are to recovery.

“There are few happy days for a cancer patient and even fewer that make me feel good about myself,” said Nancy Wells. “I love the color and style of my wig and the way it makes me feel, a visual, good outlook for my future. Thanks to the ACS, St. Clair Hospital and Shirley Mur for helping with my selection and fitting me.”

The 25th annual Cancer Survivors Conference is set for 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. April 20 at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, Monroeville. For details, call 412-919-1100.

American Cancer Society

It’s been 100 years since the American Cancer Society began its journey, the fight of a lifetime. ACS is a community-based, voluntary health organization. Dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem, its mission is to save lives and diminish suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. Through millions of supporters worldwide, ACS is finding cures and fighting back against cancer, helping people to stay well and get well.

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