Pat Parrott, who was diagnosed with lymphoma a few months ago, is doing her best to keep a positive attitude. And the volunteers from Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center Auxiliary’s new Unique Boutique are certainly helping.
The Unique Boutique is a free wig, hat and scarf shop that’s located at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, on the first floor of the Geddy Outpatient Center.
Volunteers, under the direction of Margaret Cullivan, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center volunteer services/guest services, help patients with medical hair loss select a wig or other head cover. Volunteers meet with patients one-on-one for about an hour to give them privacy and time to select the looks they like.
“The Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center Auxiliary has strongly supported the breast cancer program in Williamsburg. The Auxiliary introduced a free mammography program and continues to donate chemo caps and lap blankets to patients. The ongoing support allows Sentara to enhance its offerings to cancer patients in order to make a difficult situation much better,” says Margaret Cullivan.
“Two of the women met me before the official opening of the Unique Boutique. They showed me wigs, hats and scarves,” says Pat Parrott. “My hair is almost gone from the chemo; I have just a few sprigs left.”
A unique experience.
Pat left the appointment with two wigs and a few knit hats. She has especially appreciated the hats because her head gets cold in brisk weather. No money was needed for Pat to feel more comfortable and confident: The consultation and head cover-ups were free, thanks to the Auxiliary volunteers and the generosity of Suzi Williamson, a former Williamsburg resident.
“I offered the service on my own in my home after I survived breast cancer,” explains Suzi, who called herself The Hat Trader. “I’ve been meeting with patients since 1999. I was so happy that the hospital accepted my donation and created The Unique Boutique because I’m moving to Colorado to be with family.”
Her stock included 700 wigs and 1,400 hats, all accumulated through donations. Suzi estimates she helped about 85 patients a year, and she anticipates that the hospital volunteers will serve more people.
“My community had gated security, so that could be a barrier. I also didn’t have wheelchair accessibility,” Suzi notes. “I sometimes met patients on my front steps because they couldn’t get up the stairs. I think the hospital will be much more convenient for people, so I’m thrilled.”
The volunteers are thrilled, too.
Jane Andersen, a breast cancer survivor, has been working with fellow Auxiliary member Carolyn Collins to organize the Unique Boutique and recruit volunteers. They opened in January 2013 and see patients by appointment. Andersen loves the Unique Boutique’s warm, homey room that has been painted a soft yellow and includes lots of cabinets and a dressing table with a mirror.
“It really looks like a boutique,” she says. “It’s a safe, cozy place. That’s what we want: we want it to be a wonderful place for women and men, anyone who is experiencing medical hair loss.”
Pat, the lymphoma patient, could be going back to the Unique Boutique in the near future. She describes her head as small, and she’d like to select another wig or two to get a perfect fit.
“I might take another look,” she says. “They told me they keep getting new stock.”
Suzi, the Hat Trader, confirmed that new donations are rarely a problem.
“Customers would always ask me ‘what do I owe you?,’ ‘what can I do to re-pay you?,’” says Suzi. “I would tell them ‘get better,’ and ‘then, if you like, make a donation to help someone else.’ So many of them did just that.”
The Unique Boutique’s free wig, hat and scarf shop, is located at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, on the first floor of The Geddy Outpatient Center, 100 Sentara Circle. Auxiliary volunteers will help patients with medical hair loss select a wig or other head cover. Volunteers meet with patients one-on-one for about an hour to give them privacy and time to select the looks they like. Patients can call 757-345-4439 for an appointment.