Harvest of Hope
Sponsored by Longstreet Cancer Center
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 13,
Where: Lake Lanier Olympic Venue, 3105 Clarks Bridge Road, Gainesville.
Cost: Free, registration required.
More info: Games, music, dragon boats, informational exhibits, food, fun. 770-533-4705, www.gloryhopelife.org.
"Cancer itself is just a hard journey all the way around," Cathy Jarrells said.
As a certified mastectomy fitter at All About You in the Longstreet Clinic Cancer Center, she tries to help women feel more like themselves- something they need while recovering from the disease.
Jarrells has heard patient’s stories and seen their struggles, but it’s her own experience with cancer that allows her to connect with her patients.
She is a nine-year survivor of colon cancer.
"Personally, I thought there is some reason I went through this. There is some reason I’m still here, and it has got to be to help somebody else that is going through the same thing," Jarrells said.
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, All About You held an open house to give women the chance to ask questions about post-mastectomy products, like bras, prostheses, compression garments and wigs.
Jarrells said there are a lot of women — and men — who have had mastectomies who simply don’t know there are products available that can help them feel more like themselves.
She said she’s seen women using socks or bags of rice or beans to create the shape of a breast, not knowing they could use a more comfortable and life-like silicone form.
All About You also offers wigs, scarves and caps for patients who have lost their hair in treatment.
"They want to feel like themselves again and giving them that prosthesis, giving them that pretty bra that they can wear again, it does a lot to make them feel like themselves again," Jarrells said.
The purpose of a prosthetic breast isn’t just to achieve a balanced look, but to actually keep the body aligned.
A certified mastectomy fitter will match the size and shape of the remaining breast as closely as possible to prevent problems in the neck, back and shoulders.
Most insurances will cover the cost of a wig, prosthetic breast and mastectomy bras.
Though most companies cover the supplies breast cancer survivors need, there are still people who are not able to get those products because they don’t have insurance or have another financial issue.
Jarrells said that shouldn’t deter people from getting what they need to live a more normal life because the store can help with some financial needs.
"Its an emotional and psychological journey. What we try to do here is make that journey a little bit easier and more tolerable," Jarrells said.
Sometimes All About You will reach out to a local ministry, Glory Hope and Life, for help getting patients a product they need, such as a wig.
The three-pronged ministry’s mission is to enrich the lives of cancer patients in Northeast Georgia by providing resources and programs to cancer patients.
Jackie Cooley, a board member of Glory Hope and Life, said the ministry was inspired by a visit to the post-mastectomy supply store at The Longstreet Clinic, then called "The Shoppe."
She went along with her friend, Judy Piotrowski, who battled breast cancer for nine years, to purchase a wig and overheard the manager on the phone with an insurance company.
The manager was trying to get a wig for a young, single mother of two who lost her hair as a result of chemotherapy. The woman felt embarrassed by her appearance and wore a baseball cap to work everyday.
Piotrowski and her friends raised enough money to purchase the young mother a wig and started the ministry that continues to help cancer patients today.
Part of what the ministry does is help patients navigate the often confusing and overwhelming world that a cancer diagnosis thrusts people into.
"I think all of us have been touched by cancer. I think that’s the reason we’re so passionate about what we do. We’ve got to make the road easier for some," Cooley said.
The ministry will hold its annual Harvest of Hope event Oct. 13 at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue in Gainesville. The event provides a chance for caregivers, survivors and families to celebrate survival.