The Unique Boutique

The Circle of Care Boutique at the Cancer Center's St. Johnsbury clinic serves a very special clientele – cancer patients and survivors.

Branching off from the sleek, clean entrance hallway to Norris Cotton Cancer Center's satellite facility in St. Johnsbury, Vt., is a space devoted to a remarkable, unique store: The Circle of Care Boutique.

Focus article photo

Products sold at the Boutique include a wide variety of items that cater to the special needs of cancer patients and survivors.

Exclusively specializing in products for cancer patients and their families, the Boutique is the only shop of its kind in Vermont.

Modeled on similar boutiques at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and at Concord Hospital in New Hampshire, the Circle of Care Boutique features carefully selected products—hats, scarves, footwear, clothing for breast cancer survivors, stomach-settling teas and cooling "pops" for nausea, CDs of soothing music, jewelry, lip balms, toothpastes, skin creams, and products for sensitive hair and scalps, among many others—that consider the special needs of cancer patients and survivors. Most of the items sold at the Boutique are made in the U.S. (many are made in Vermont), and quite a few come from companies founded by cancer survivors. Brands include Tom's of Maine, Yogi Tea, "Chill Out" (towels), "Snoozies" (slippers), and Desert Essence. The fleece-lined SKIDA hats (also made in Vermont) are produced by a small company founded by a young entrepreneur, Corinne Prevot, a student at Middlebury College, who donates dozens of her SKIDA hats every year to the chemotherapy suite at Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

In addition to the clean, well-lighted product display area, the Boutique includes a private wig-fitting room and private prosthesis fitting room. The store is a designated wig provider for the American Cancer Society.

Getting It Just Right for Cancer Patients
Boutique fitting room

The Boutique includes two special fitting rooms, one for wigs (shown here) and one for prosthetic devices.

"We spent a lot of time trying to make the Boutique just right," says Pat Forest, MS, coordinator for the volunteers who staff the shop. "We wanted to create a place where cancer patients feel comfortable shopping for the kinds of products they need to make their lives easier and, well, nicer."

Discussions to create the Boutique got underway in February 2010, and soon the Northern Vermont Regional Hospital ( NVRH) Auxiliary began holding fundraisers. Construction was done by the NVRH Facility Management team. The hardwood floor was donated, as were the mirrors in the fitting rooms. All of the custom cabinetry and display shelves were built and donated by local craftsmen. A $10,000 grant from the Cancer Center's Lebanon, NH, administrative office helped pay heating costs. By February of this year, two years after the initial discussions, the Circle of Care Boutique was ready to open its doors for the first time.

Help for Patients, Help for the Cancer Center

Sales have been brisk, reports Pat. A portion of each sale benefits the Cancer Center. Insurance covers some, though not all, sales, depending on the product. A Patient's Assistance Account helps those in financial need with meeting deductibles.

Next month and again in October, the Boutique will hold special fitting events for breast cancer survivors who will receive complimentary fittings for prosthesis and bras. The events will include product giveaways, drawings for door prizes, and snacks and beverages.

The Circle of Care Boutique at Norris Cotton Cancer Center St. Johnsbury is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fitting appointments can be made by calling (802) 748-7372.

May 14, 2012