Appearance Boutique at Augusta Health Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders Receives Makeover

BC Support Group photo

Date: July 27, 2022
Categories: Health Focused, Cancer

Suzie VanValkenburg
Breast Cancer Support Group

During the past year at the Augusta Health Breast Cancer Support Group meetings, women confidentially shared how they were feeling in the early weeks of their diagnosis. A common theme emerged: one of feeling vulnerable, not knowing how cancer would impact them, especially their appearance. Discussion about the Cancer Center’s Appearances Boutique often followed. Group leader and Oncology Breast Nurse Navigator, Donna Berdeaux, RN, BSN saw an opportunity to improve these initial diagnosis feelings.

Open for nearly 10 years, the Boutique has served the community by providing one free wig to women experiencing hair loss from chemotherapy. In 2016, bras and prosthetics [breast forms] were added to serve mastectomy patients.

Berdeaux’s vision was to reduce this helpless feeling by enhancing the Boutique to be more welcoming and calming. Support Group members Patty Piccinino, Carol Cobb, and Suzie VanValkenburg worked with Berdeaux and Appearances Boutique Coordinator, Kim Glover.

Since most cancer patients initially visit the Boutique with their significant other, family member, or female friends, making a good first impression matters. The first step in enhancing the space was re-arranging inventory. Headcovers such as scarves, turbans, and hats were moved to the entrance walls making them colorful. Wigs were moved further back for a more natural flow. Since every patient doesn’t need a mastectomy, bras were moved to the back to be less intimidating.

The team worked with facilities to open the space by removing non-essential items including a large desk. A quiet area consisting of two chairs, a small table, and a rug were added. It’s now an ideal setting for meaningful conversation about a woman’s upcoming change in her appearance.

Based on Support Group suggestions, a variety of head covering options were added to better fit different life activities. The Support Group recently started making earrings to be given free when a woman chooses a head covering. The beaded earrings will add a touch of glamor and fun to one’s new look.

“I couldn’t believe the difference. I could feel the warmth and calmness. It’s amazing how the whole vibe shifted simply by making a few changes,” commented a recent breast cancer survivor.

This project also included creating a new flyer promoting the Appearances Boutique. In addition, a new process was developed to thank donors for their physical donations to the Boutique and Cancer Center. A future project includes working to increase financial support for the Boutique so it can continue to offer a variety of head coverings.

Contributions can be made to the Appearances Fund through the Augusta Health Foundation. Visit for more information.