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Cancer Support Community VVSB and My Fairy Godfathers Team up to Provide Wigs for People Affected by Cancer

SAMSUNG CSCDiagnosed with stage three breast cancer two months ago, Karin Hochevar knows she’s going to lose her hair when she starts chemotherapy in a few weeks.

So when she heard about a wig giveaway at the Cancer Support Community in Thousand Oaks in which she could obtain beautiful blond locks that look similar to her own, she jumped at the chance.

“I’m very, very grateful because having cancer is very stressful. It’s a lot of bad news, bad news, bad news, and this is good news,” said Hochevar, a Newbury Park resident. “This is one of the hardest parts, losing my hair. It’s like, yuck, I don’t want to lose my hair.”

On April 5, Hochevar, 51, was among 20 people with cancer who received a free wig made with real hair. The value of the wig was $400.

The philanthropic effort was made possible by Steven Anderson and Andrew Ashton, the founders of My Fairy Godfathers, a nonprofit organization.

After being fitted for a wig on top of her real hair, Hochevar was so happy with the results she decided to wear the wig for the rest of the day.

“This is adorbs. Look at how cute this is, I just love it,” she said while inspecting her image in the mirror after the wig fitting. “I’m just shocked at how great this looks.”

Anderson and Ashton are business partners and owners of LaPosh Salon in Clearwater, Fla. For the past year, they have been giving away wigs to cancer patients throughout the United States.

“Andrew and I designed this collection of wigs for (model) Iman; that’s how we ended up with these,” Anderson said. “They’re handmade, and they take three days to make one wig. So you’ve got a nice quality hairpiece.”

Helping women who have lost their hair due to cancer has been very rewarding, Ashton said.

“We love it. We’re in the business of making people pretty and feel beautiful, so this is just a way we can do it,” Ashton said. “Most women that are going through this tend to not feel like they look good. That’s why we make them feel good.”

Such was the case for Andrea Caldwell, whose breast cancer has spread to her spine and liver. She arrived at the wig giveaway wearing a bandana to cover her hairless head.

“I’m on chemo right now, and I had my total hysterectomy about seven days ago,” said Caldwell, a 46-year-old Moorpark resident who heard about the wig giveaway from the American Cancer Society’s connection at St. John’s in Oxnard.

Caldwell was fitted by Anderson with a long blond wig with curls. After looking at herself in the mirror, she was stunned at how realistic the wig looked.

“You wouldn’t know it wasn’t my real hair,” Caldwell said. “I don’t like going out without hair. I had long hair so it’s disgusting for me not to have hair. I won’t have hair for another year and a half, so this is my only way to have it.”

A 50-year-old woman from Thousand Oaks received a short brown wig that she said looked very similar to her own hair before she lost it all to chemotherapy.

She asked to remain anonymous because “it happened too quickly, and I’m still dealing with the shock.”

She was diagnosed with cancer when she turned 50 and underwent a double mastectomy.

Now I’m getting chemo. It’s very hard to just deal with the fact that it happened,” she said. “I know there are good parts because it was detected early, but I lost my hair after the first chemo right away.”

After being fitted for her wig by Ashton, she said, “I feel normal. Some people don’t care if they have hair or not; they’ll go out in public and they’re really brave, but that’s not me.”

The Fairy Godfathers connected with the Cancer Support Community through Harriet Wasserman of Tarzana, whose daughter had breast cancer and received support from CWC in Thousand Oaks. Wasserman now serves on the nonprofit’s board of directors.

“Our mission at the Cancer Support Community is to provide free cancer support . . . and it just made sense to partner with My Fairy Godfathers,” said Denise Coulter, program assistant at the Cancer Support Community in Westlake Village.

“My Fairy Godfathers empowers women by providing them a welcome boost of confidence,” she said.

This story was originally printed in the Acorn. You can find the original article here.

What Can a Little Cancer Support Lead To?

Guest Blogger: Steve Hentzenprostate_blog

My name is Steve Hentzen, and when I was 46-year-old, as a single father of my son Joel, who is 13, I tried to go to a Boy Scout camp that required a medical release form. But my doctor insisted on doing a physical before signing it. Because of this, a life-saving PSA test was given. A PSA of 19 led to a biopsy, which discovered a Gleason score of 9, and I had to tell my son that I had prostate cancer.

After surgery found clean margins, I felt I could embrace my second chance at life, but Joel struggled with not believing his dad was okay. It was a tough year, but we marched on.

One year later, prior to a routine screening, I met with a pastor who had been thinking of us and had an idea that my doctor could put on a staged doctor’s appointment for Joel to explain to him that his dad was fine, and they hoped this would help alleviate Joel’s anxiety and help him move on. But then, my doctor called to tell me that Joel’s worries were confirmed because my cancer was back.

And, on that same day, a nurse handed me a flyer for a Cancer Support Community affiliate called Gilda’s Club of Kansas City.

I knew that we couldn’t go through this journey again alone and turned to Gilda’s Club Kansas City, where Joel ended up being one of the first kids they ever helped. During my daily radiation treatments for 8 weeks, Joel and I leaned on Gilda’s Club. Eventually, we got the news that the treatment was successful!

During my time at Gilda’s Club, I met other prostate cancer survivors which sparked the idea that we needed a place for others facing prostate cancer to meet, which Gilda’s Club provided. Thanks to the momentum of Prostate Cancer Awareness Day and meeting with fellow prostate cancer survivors, Caeser Blevins, Mike Mulcahy, and Sali Katz, we were able to start the Prostate Network. This is a survivor-led, volunteer-powered, not-for-profit, impassioned support group focused on helping men deal with issues related to prostate cancer.

In the fall of 2016, we discovered there was a complimentary organization, ZERO The End of Prostate Cancer, which champions strategic alliances with national and local organizations and politicians to protect critical government funds for prostate cancer research. Mulcahy, Blevins, and I participated in a run/walk to support ZERO in Kansas City, which led to our attendance at the 2017 ZERO Patient Summit. We hope to continue helping ZERO Cancer raise funds for research programs, and when I saw a sign for the Cancer Support Community at the summit, I recalled how my advocacy for prostate cancer started at Gilda’s Club Kansas City, an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community.

ASK THE EXPERT – Signs of a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in a family by Amy Yoffe

Amy YoffeeWhen you think about your family’s medical history, do you notice any patterns of cancer?  Perhaps you’ve heard stories about a great-grandmother who passed away from breast cancer at only 35 years old.  Or you recall hearing stories about your grandmother being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  You’re certain that both of your grandmother’s sisters died of ovarian cancer in their 70’s and that their brother, whom you’ve never met, battled stomach cancer.  As you start to put these pieces together, you might wonder if this is a pattern that could one day impact your own health…

Signs of a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in a family include, but are not limited to, any family member with:

  • Ovarian cancer at any age
  • Breast cancer at age 50 or younger
  • Breast cancer in both breasts at any age
  • Both breast and ovarian cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and breast cancer at any age

More than one relative on the same side of the family with any of these cancers:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Melanoma

When patients are concerned that they might be at high risk for hereditary breast -ovarian cancer syndrome, the best first step is to meet with a Genetic Counselor who can help determine the need for genetic testing.

Individuals who are faced with having a genetic mutation, might feel confused and overwhelmed as they work to process what this means.  They may need education and support while trying to understand the range of options available.  FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) is the only National Organization dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.  FORCE offers quarterly support meetings which provide an opportunity to meet others who know what you’re going through, to ask questions, learn or just listen in a safe and supportive environment.

Amy Yoffe, LCSW is a Peer Support Group Leader for the West Valley/Ventura Chapter of FORCE, and a BRCA1+ Previvor.

Next Upcoming Support Meeting:  Sunday, May 7th from 10:30am-2:00pm.

Tech, Health, and Cancer

biden on main csc blogThe burgeoning intersection of health and technology holds tremendous promise. As experts in both fields are increasingly mindful of the other’s value, if not inevitability, we see exciting and meaningful examples of innovation in technology-enabled clinical care. Leveraging technology in the service of cancer patients and their families is not new to the Cancer Support Community (CSC). Our expansion into the tech space includes an array of digital tools to improve care for cancer patients and their providers, including Cancer Support Source, a comprehensive distress screening program for community oncology practices and patient advocacy groups; CancerEd, a series of eLearning courses for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers; and the Cancer Experience Registry, a unique online community that allows people facing cancer to share their experiences, identify the issues that impact their lives, and learn from one another. (I strongly encourage our readers to explore these resources by clicking on the links provided.)

On trend with the proliferation of tech in health, this year’s South By Southwest Festival (SXSW), historically a convergence of the film and music industries, had a notable healthcare focus. From panels on patient-centric care and dynamic innovations in healthcare, to a novel three part series, Connect to End Cancer, health and tech experts from around the world came together to discuss their shared future. I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s SXSW and was struck by the thoughtfulness of many of the panelists I heard. From social determinants of health to unequal distribution of digital resources, I was relieved to see technologists acknowledge the critical importance of anchoring innovation to the lived experience of patients and clinicians. Conversely, healthcare providers – this nurse included – are increasingly supportive of using technology to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

Former Vice President Joseph Biden brought the health-tech relationship to center stage, literally and figuratively, at this year’s SXSW. Addressing a packed and eager audience, Biden announced his plans for the Biden Cancer Initiative and called on all innovators and entrepreneurs to take on ending cancer as we know it, a continuing call to action from his leadership of the White House Cancer Moonshot.

Biden is right to identify the promise and unprecedented opportunity of addressing healthcare challenges through innovation, and CSC supports this trajectory in technology-enabled health services. We are also deeply committed to ensuring that all our efforts, from standard of care to pioneering, address the true needs of patients and families facing cancer because, as one SXSW panelist astutely noted, “If we forget about the human side of this, whether it’s the physician or the patient, we lose.”

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT- Grace Marchand Baskin

Coffee with Yolie: A mother-in-law’s perspective on her daughter-in-law, Yolanda (Yolie) Baskin, who made her recent journey….to Heaven.
by Grace Marchand BaskinYolie

I didn’t know what I could do for her to make her well, again….there was nothing that I could have done that would have made any difference…..nothing, and I’m sad over that. I couldn’t save her one little smidgen.

I even told her parents I would if I could, even if it meant losing my own life, as I’ve lived a good one, and as old as I now am (just turned 70 years young) why oh why could I not have been able to transfer some of those years over to her? She needed them more than I did, and it would be wonderful to be able to help her do the same, as all she wanted was to see her children grow,  but …..all I could do were some things, I think I do best: have a great cup of coffee, and write, so I did.  Each morning began with me making a pot of coffee to perk, and when ready, I’d call her wherever she was, home or hospital, and say, “Okay, I’m having coffee now”, and she’d reply, “I am, too, mom, with a biscotti.” (She loved biscotti so much I dubbed her Yolie Biscotti)……and then,

I started writing her letters after her brain surgery, and each time she had to go back to UCLA, and then in the care center, then at home…..etc., sketching colorful pictures on the envelopes, and stationary, filling lines with sweet or funny phrases and memories……telling her how much I have always appreciated her taking such great care of my son…….how she always made his dreams, hers, how good her parents were to him – he has great in-laws…..just some of the stuff that I wanted her to know while she was alive and well, and for that matter, I’ve told her these things many times over the years they were married, just so nothing ever, was left unsaid.  We had a comfortable relationship, and again, the fact that she was so “there” for my son, all of the time, no matter what – I knew that if things were reversed she would be in his court front and center: there’s nothing more I can say, except – he will never find another like her. I fill my cup of coffee in the morning, look over at the Sacred Heart of Jesus picture that mom gave me, then at Yolie’s picture, and say, “Here’s to you”, and I’m going to keep saying it because there it is….coffee with Yolie, now, and always. Love, Mom B. xo