A Different Kind of ‘Patient Care’

Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A group of female patients came to Fox Chase on a summer afternoon, but it wasn’t for their usual routines of testing, procedures and doctor visits. Instead, they were treated to makeovers, photo portrait sessions and home-baked treats hosted by the Women’s Cancer Center in Boo’s Boutique.

“After what I have been through this year, this was a welcomed, relaxing hour,” said Loren Santamaria, who was among the 27 participants.

The pampering session in the Robert C. Young, MD, Pavilion grew from an event in May in which 6 Fox Chase patients received makeovers from Manuel Villegas, a national makeup artist for Lancôme, at the Bloomingdale’s in Willow Grove.

Villegas with patient Arhonda Williams.

Villegas was so touched by meeting the women and hearing their stories that he offered to spend his next volunteer day—he gets 2 each year—doing a similar, larger event at Fox Chase.

His goal was clear: “Make these ladies understand that they’re beautiful, no matter what, no matter what stage of their life,” he told KYW-AM, in a report also aired by KYW-TVWTXF-TV and the CBS Philly website.

‘Looking and Feeling More Beautiful Than Ever’

Villegas and five artists from his team applied makeup for four women each hour throughout the day, providing tips customized to each woman’s appearance and lifestyle.

“This event validated that no matter what illnesses you face in life, or how bad it may seem, there is hope and you can come out looking and feeling more beautiful than ever,” said Sharon Garrett, whose mother, Rebecca Eason, received a makeover.

And the women left with a lot more than skincare and makeup tips. Many said they felt empowered and reminded of their beauty.

“It was an experience that I’ll never forget. It was great to be pampered and treated as a guest and not as a patient while in the hospital building,” said Denise Schweser. “My experiences at the main campus are usually surgery or tube changes that require a driver. I had a feeling of empowerment when I walked up the ramp without a designated driver.”

Participants were invited through their doctors and nurse navigators, 15 of whom dropped by to pose for portraits with their patients. They were photographed by Jeff Baxter of Noir Worldwide, who donated his services.

Framed photos from the session were sent to the patients, said Lisa Bailey, Fox Chase’s director of social networking communications, who coordinated the Boo’s Boutique pampering session as well as the Center’s participation in the Bloomingdale’s event in May.

Among the refreshments were homemade muffins and cornbread prepared using recipes from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, whose author, Rebecca Katz, will speak at Fox Chase on November 15. (Register for this free event)

A Break In Routine

“Everyone made us feel very special and it was a joy to be at Fox Chase under different circumstances than most of us were used to,” said Deirdre Duffy. “I appreciate all the love and care that went into the event.”

The special treatment extended beyond the afternoon, with participants leaving with goody bags full of various freebies, including Lancôme products and a $25 gift card to Bloomingdale’s. Each also received a single rose, donated by Precious Petals.

The setting, Boo’s Boutique, opened in April across from Karen’s Korner gift shop. Currently, JayAnn Intimates offers bra fittings, breast prostheses and apparel on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Plans are under way for the boutique to expand its hours next month and offer additional services and products, including wigs, hats and scarves; skin care services and massage therapy.

For many attendees, it was their first time inside the boutique.

“It’s really a beautiful facility,” said Michael J. Hall, MD, about Boo’s Boutique after posing for a photo with Eason, his patient. “I can’t wait to send my patients here.”

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Fox Chase Cancer Center-Temple Health

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Cancer Conversations is the Fox Chase Cancer Center blog for news and analysis from staff and friends of the Center, reflecting current news in the field of oncology.

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