With its top-ranked hospitals and renowned medical schools, St. Louisans are fortunate enough to be surrounded by leaders in health  care close to home, should the need arise. Since health can be viewed as a total self-wellness package, there are healing systems outside the standard hospital room. If you or a loved one are in the ring against the Big Bad C, keep swinging with comfort, thanks to these area programs aimed at those affected by cancer.


Cancer Support Community

•Cancer Support Community (CSC) is focused on assisting those with or affected by cancer by providing free services in nutrition, stress management, education and support. “What we offer is a place where our members are empowered to live and flourish, despite their disease,” says program director Renata Sledge. “We offer them a place to feel valued and safe.”

•Nutrition information is available through individual meetings with a dietitian, cooking classes and monthly nutritionist lectures. “Everything that we do is evidence-based,” Sledge says. “We bring in experts in the field.”

•“We offer support groups, as a place where people can just come and be whatever they need to be in that moment,” explains Sledge. This also includes programs for caregivers, survivors, children and families, as well as cancer type-specific gatherings and bereavement groups.

•Belly-dancing, yoga, Zumba, line-dancing, Nia and QiGong classes are offered through CSC’s Mind Body Spirit program, in addition to the Monthly Mindfulness series.

•Workshops and topics range from journaling to side effects to art therapy. “When I start my calendar planning every quarter, one of the first things I ask myself is, What are people not getting?” Sledge explains. “They’re not getting those questions answered about sexuality, or the impact of the disease to their relationships or children,” so various workshops help to fill the gaps.


be Salon

•In addition to expected salon mainstays, such as haircuts and manicures, be Salon offers permanent hair solutions to cancer patients. “Our ideal scenario is to get a client coming in at the beginning of their treatment to avoid the trauma of them losing their hair,” says owner Lilibet Iken.

•Patients visit the salon for a free consultation, during which a small amount of hair is snipped and sent in for manufacturing. Iken says the returning hair is “almost identical” in color, density and length, and is attached using a permanent surgical adhesive. To attach it to the scalp, patients have their hair shaved in a private suite and are turned away from the mirror, so there is never a moment of traumatic visual difference.

•Once the hair begins to grow back, the be Salon solution can be switched out for clips, to allow for a seamless transition.

•The program features no membership fees or contracts, and is comparable in price to a high-quality, human-hair wig, according to Iken. “We are not a hair club,” Iken says. “I am a nurse who happens to own a salon.”


Medical West

•Outside of standard home medical equipment, Medical West offers bra assistance for clients who are or have been affected by breast cancer, and features in-house tailoring to customize fit. This includes unique garments featuring breast compression, aloe, vitamin E, altered necklines or adjusted straps, depending on the particular need. “Sometimes a garment off the shelf is disregarded when it may offer a very therapeutic fit, but it needs a little help—and we can do that,” says co-owner Dayle Sandler.

•On-staff nurses assist in finding proper creams and bandages, pending physician approval, to promote skin healing, protection and soothing post-radiation or surgery.

•“There is a myriad of different kinds of products for collection devices,” explains Sandler of products suited for those affected by urinary or colon cancer, noting the importance of the on-site professionals. “It’s a delicate subject, because it’s so important that the product fit the stoma properly for hygienic and comfort reasons.”

•Patients experiencing temporary or permanent incontinence can benefit from the discreet product sampling program, which helps find the right product without the wasted cost to clients.


Vakkár Salon

•Vakkár Salon offers an annual day of beauty to breast cancer patients or survivors. “I had cancer in my own family, and that’s how I happened upon this,” says creative director David Johnston. “Their hair texture changes,” he says, explaining that many times the hair comes back curly, which may need an entirely different style and routine than the pre-treatment tresses.

•The RSVP-required event is first-come, first-serve. “A lot of the women that come on that day are women who don’t get to treat themselves to a salon quite like this,” Johnston says. “I want them to feel that attention to detail.”

•The event, which most recently occurred on June 10, includes a free haircut, style, make-up application, goodie bag and professional portrait.

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