CONYERS – Diane Reagan was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She is a survivor who went through chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. However, it was losing her hair that was the most difficult ordeal to deal with, she said.
“After going through cancer, you realize how important it is to be encouraging to someone else who is going through it,” Reagan said.
It is due to this passion that Reagan volunteers at Kim’s Closet – a boutique designed for cancer patients and survivors. The closet provides wigs, hats, and scarves free of charge to patients suffering from all forms of cancer, not just breast cancer.
As changes in appearance can pose emotional obstacles in recovery, the boutique aims to provide a supportive environment to help ease the pain patients may be experiencing.
Newly diagnosed women are given “Bags of Hope,” which includes a blanket for comfort and a journal to keep up with doctors’ appointments and to organize paperwork.
Those undergoing mastectomies are given small pillows to place below their seat-belts to alleviate any pain following the surgery.
The 15 volunteers who work at Kim’s Closet are all breast cancer survivors themselves. In addition to assisting women in selecting the accessories, they also share their stories to comfort those in the shoes that they once wore.
“It’s very uplifting and positive to come in and talk to our volunteers,” Reagan said. The gratification goes both ways.
“After the first patient that they (the volunteers) were able to help, they all called me to say, ‘I got to help somebody today, I got to share my story,’” she said.
Women in need of prosthetics due to cancer may also visit Kim’s Closet. The boutique contacts a local company – Able Prosthetic Care – for referral and will also cover the bill up to a certain amount.
The wigs and accessories available at Kim’s are mostly donated by women’s groups, churches or individuals wishing to give back to the community. Donated wigs are cleaned by local professional hairstylists. Some wigs are purchased as needed through the Kimberly Chance Atkins Foundation, which sponsors the boutique.
KCAF was formed in memory of Kimberly Chance Atkins, a sixth-grade teacher at Memorial Middle School in Conyers who passed away in October of 1999 after battling with stage 4 breast cancer.
The foundation was set up in her honor to promote education about early detection, prevention, treatment options and recovery from cancer. The group provides seminars on the topics to various civic groups and churches. Additionally, it also helps underinsured men and women get mammograms.
The foundation also has a “Wall of Hope” set up at Rockdale Medical where local women in the community who have survived cancer are recognized.
“Speaking personally, it was helpful to me when I was going through my treatment to look up on that wall and see women that I knew and to realize that they had gone through this and survived, and I would too,” Reagan said.
Extending the foundation’s support initiatives, Kim’s Closet was opened two years ago. A similar service called Hope Boutique is available at Piedmont Newton Hospital.
“We just thought it was important to provide a service like that to this community,” Reagan said.
According to Reagan, an average of one or two patients visit the boutique every week. The average age of women coming in ranges in the 60s although they have received patients as young as 38 years old.
One of the most memorable visits for Reagan was from a couple where the lady’s husband had shaved his head in solidarity with his wife.
“Every wig she tried on, her husband just thought she was beautiful no matter what color, what style,” she said. “It brings tears to my eyes because it was so sweet.”
Reagan said she hopes more people learn about the boutique and visit it or recommend it to others, not just because the services are free but because the environment is filled with hope, and the volunteers have a lot to share.
Kim’s Closet is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 4:00 p.m. and 7 p.m, and Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. Private appointments are also available if needed.
Interested individuals may call 770-918-3196 to set an appointment or for any other queries. Kim’s Closet also accepts donations of new or gently used wigs, scarves, hats, and prosthetics.
The boutique is located in the Center East Tower at Rockdale Medical.