“We offer the products that give them their independence and self esteem back to help them feel pretty again!” Kathy Smith, Women’s Health Boutique.
For women facing a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, life’s journey can become threatening and scary fast. The onslaught of information and the decisions related to one’s health and body can be overwhelming. Today women have more choices about their healthcare before and after surgery than ever before. But even the most carefully thought through plans can, on occasion, go awry.
When that happens, women in West Michigan are fortunate to have the professional services and specialized products offered by the Women’s Health Boutique with locations in Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon, Cadillac, Mt. Pleasant and now, The Lemmen Holton Cancer Center. For over 20 years, the Women’s Health Boutique has grown to become a trusted resource for doctor referrals to breast cancer patients pre- and post-operation.
“We specialize in mastectomy fittings, wigs, pressure garments and other products that women going through cancer or other diseases might need,” explains Kathy Smith, a certified fitter at the Lemmen Holton boutique. “There are not many places in Michigan that offer the services and products that we have here.”
The full store boutiques offers post-breast surgery products, compression therapy, wigs and turbans, personal bra fittings, maternity products and diabetic shoes. Trained professionals assist clients in an atmosphere of comfort, taste and privacy.
“Women are always frightened by the unknown,” Smith says. “It’s a new journey for them and we understand that. We try very hard to help them, before or after surgery, to answer their questions and remove doubt so they feel normal again and get back to being their old selves.
“We offer the products that give them their independence and self esteem back to help them feel pretty again!”
The Women’s Health Boutique was originally started by a woman in Texas over 25 years ago in response to her own mother facing breast cancer and having few mastectomy products available to her. A franchise was bought by Pulmonary Home Care and brought to West Michigan. Smith says it was fortunate those owners saw the need in West Michigan 20 years ago.
Today the stores in West Michigan are owned by Airway Oxygen and have expanded locations along the lakeshore in the last year and a half, including the location at Lemmen Holton. That boutique carries mostly wigs, mastectomy and compression therapy products within dedicated space of the center’s gift shop on the third floor.
“Most of what we carry and provide is prescription based, so it’s post surgical products that require a doctor’s prescription and is covered by insurance,” she explains, adding, “Most of the doctors in this market are very aware of us and thankfully we have done a good job with their patients so they keep sending them.”
According to the latest statistics, one out of every eight women in our lifetime will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Those are pretty strong statistics. But while some may think Smith’s job of being a certified fitter for post-breast surgery is depressing, Smith disagrees.
“I love what I do! I’m passionate about what we do because we help so many women feel better about themselves after a horrible diagnosis. One of the greatest pleasures of our job is seeing women transformed through this process,” she says adding, “Women who have gone through the breast cancer journey are some of the most empowered women I have ever met in my whole life! They have a lot of chutzpah!”
The Women’s Health Boutique also serves women who are financially challenged but need bras and prosthetics by offering free gently used items that are donated, cleaned and put in their Angel Closet. Although it’s not an advertised service, Smith says it is a known resource through social services.
“One woman who discovered us many years after her surgery stayed in the dressing room admiring herself fully dressed for the longest time,” Smith recalls. “When I asked if she was okay, she simply said, ‘I look like a woman again!’
“Now how can that not make you feel wonderful about what you do?” Smith asks. “It’s experiences like that, that we take home with us from doing this job.”
For more information about the services, products and locations of The Women’s Health Boutique go to: www.whbi.com