By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian
Those who have battled breast cancer know that it can be very costly, but now Fairmont General Hospital and the American Cancer Society have teamed up to take some financial stress off patients.
Tricia Julian, program coordinator for Oncology Services at FGH, said the Cancer Resource Center (CRC) at the hospital has recently received a supply of mastectomy bras and forms. She said these items will be given to anyone in the community who needs them at no cost even if they aren’t a patient at FGH.
“It absolutely does not matter; I don’t use that as criteria,” Julian said. “I don’t care where they’re being treated or where they live; they can get supplies from us.”
One of the CRC’s volunteers, Connie Ahearns knows on a first-hand basis the financial strain on breast cancer patients. She is a five-year breast cancer survivor
“The forms can be a couple hundred dollars,” Ahearns said. “Most insurances cover most of that if not all of that, but some people don’t have insurance at all.”
Ahearns said the CRC received about 30 forms and 300 mastectomy bras from the American Cancer Society’s office in Morgantown.
“We have a variety of sizes of the forms and the bras,” she said. “They’re brand new. We have others that were donated but we washed them, and if they’re not in excellent condition we don’t offer them.”
The items are located in a former patient room at the hospital. Ahearns said this allows patients the privacy of trying the items on.
“Now we’re not professional fitters, but we’ll help them out the best we can,” she said. “We do have a conversion chart to try and get everybody in the right size.”
The CRC also provides patients with information and resources to help them through this stage of their life.
“I feel that the more information a person has about breast cancer, the less scary it is for them,” Ahearns said. “A lot of that fear is the fear of the unknown.”
The CRC is staffed with volunteers including Ahearns and has been open for a little over a year. Ahearns said she volunteers at the center because she wants to reach out to others suffering with breast cancer.
“It’s important for me to reach out to folks battling this stuff,” she said. “I went through the chemo and radiation, and if there’s anything I can do to smooth someone’s path, I want to do that.”
Julian said some of mastectomy items that breast cancer patients need were left over from the hospital’s Radiation Center. She added that having the items in one central location at the hospital near the Oncology Services also benefits the patients.
“We moved those over here and we switched locations within the past few months because of the Radiation Center being renovated,” she said. “It’s been an evolving process.”
Volunteers at the CRC asked if the items could permanently stay located near the Oncology Services.
“It’s much closer to the patients this way,” Julian said.
Julian said the items have only been located in the hospital for about a month but that the move has been positive.
“We’re really about the only place giving them out at no cost to women,” she said. “Several patients here have taken advantage of this, and no one has abused it. It’s been very well received.”
Getting free mastectomy bras and forms is just one service breast cancer patients can receive for free at FGH. The hospital’s Oncology Services also provide patients with the Wig Bank, which has been at the hospital for about 10 years.
Julian said she hopes the mastectomy items will be as popular as the Wig Bank, which offers breast cancer patients with free wigs, scarves and hats.
“We’ve probably seen a 10-fold increase in the use of the Wig Bank in the past two years,” she said.
Julian said the Oncology Services at FGH are always taking donations of wigs, scarves and hats.
“Everything is washed, and we only give away items that are in good condition,” she said.
Both Ahearns and Julian want the word to spread about the mastectomy items being offered by the CRC.
“We want people to know it’s available because we want to help them,” Ahearns said.
For more information on how to get free mastectomy items or items from the Wig Bank, contact Tricia Julian at Fairmont General Hospital’s Oncology Services at 304-367-7247.
Email Emily Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.