Hope's Boutique Helps Cancer Patients Regain Confidence

Hopes Boutique

Manager Kathi Robbins of Hope’s Boutique has a saying that sums up the shop’s mission: “Your doctor saved your life, and now we’ll help you live your life.”

The non-profit retail shop is located on the ground floor of The Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center, offering a full line of products and services for cancer patients.

Robbins has been in retail for her entire professional career, and came to Hope’s Boutique in early 2015. “This is still running a business, but it puts such a different perspective on what you do on a daily basis,” she said. “This is so much more rewarding.”

As she spoke, Robbins stood in the back of the boutique, surrounded by a couple thousand bras and the prosthesis that seamlessly fit inside the bras. They’re for women who have undergone a lumpectomy, mastectomy and/or reconstructive surgery.

There are three fitting rooms, where one of the shop’s licensed mastectomy fitters works with a client to help her find the most comfortable and form-fitting bra and prosthesis.

“The prostheses now come in a light-weight silicone,” Robbins said. “It’s more comfortable, and they have the ability to wick away moisture.”

The bras and prosthesis are just part of the many products and services at Hope’s Boutique that help women who have undergone a life-changing experience find a little bit of normalcy.

The boutique offers products and services for women with all types of cancer, including synthetic and human-hair wigs that come in pretty much every color; a full line of chemical-free, skin-care and makeup products and an on-site makeup artist; hats, head wraps, sleep caps and scarves; swimwear and lingerie designed for breast cancer patients; jewelry, greeting cards and unique gifts. And yes, there are even a few Buckeye-themed products. After all, Hope’s Boutique and the Breast Center are part of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

“People do tend to say they can’t find anything like this anywhere else in the country,” Robbins said, adding women come to the boutique from all over Ohio and beyond. The boutique was also recently renovated, and Robbins said two additional wig stations were added.

The shop’s full-service credo begins as soon as someone walks in the shop. The counter has stacks of “fact cards” that provide information and help women navigate the sometimes-complicated world of health insurance. Insurance plans may cover bras, prostheses and wigs.

“We have all the ID numbers and codes, to speed up the process when they call their insurance company and make it easier,” Robbins said.

Since Hope’s Boutique is a non-profit operation, Robbins and her team can also provide some financial assistance.

“We have some funds available through donations to offset the cost of wigs for women who have minimal or no coverage,” Robbins said, adding synthetic wigs cost up to $600 and human-hair wigs can cost more than $2,000.

Wig fittings involve a visit to the “Hair Theatre,” which is similar to a trip to the salon. The four wig stations are comfortable and cozy, and the shop’s wig stylists are friendly and quite talented.

“There’s a lot of laughter and some tears,” Robbins said, adding some women make a day of it and bring a friend or two and then go out to lunch, often wearing their new wig.

Michele Rees is one of the wig stylists, and also the shop’s makeup artist.

“A lot of women are worried about their eyebrows and eyelashes that fall out (from chemo treatments),” said Rees, a breast cancer survivor. “We have several nice options for them.”

Providing a long list of nice — and fashionable — options is a perfect way to sum up Hope’s Boutique.

“Our goal is to help women feel confident again,” Robbins said.

Hope’s Boutique will host an 18th anniversary celebration and open house on Wednesday, October 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Robbins and her team will be available to answer questions and offer advice. Appointments for bra/prostheses and wig fittings are recommended. For more information, call 614-293-9393.