IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

She treats the whole woman

We are IU Health

July 08, 2019

Mary Whitenack, the boutique manager at IU Health Ball Memorial is also a certified mastectomy fitter.

Several chairs are situated around an electric fireplace inside the boutique at IU Health Ball Memorial. Windows offer a view of an exterior green space. The comfy area gives visitors the sense that they are sitting in someone’s living room.

The setting is intentional.

The majority of women who come to the boutique have recently experienced treatment for breast cancer and are seeking a safe place to heal. Part of that healing comes from dealing with loss.

Mary Whitenack is certified as a mastectomy fitter and is also a cosmetologist. “When women come in who have had a surgery I fit them in bras and prosthetics. I’m also a licensed cosmetologist and can fit them for wigs,” said Whitenack. In addition to a private changing area, the boutique offers a mirrored station for wig fittings and styling for all cancer patients.

“A lot of times the women who come to the boutique say they just want to look and feel normal. They don’t want the stares from people who don’t understand and don’t want to be singled out,” said Whitenack. Among the clothing offered in the boutique are swimsuits, athletic wear, and bras. Outreach groups crochet hats available to patients and another volunteer sews rice bags that can be heated or frozen to help ease pain.

“It’s been a big job satisfier to help women feel good about themselves. I’ve seen a lot of different responses from devastation to determination,” said Whitenack. “It amazes me the way people respond to the information you give them. I had a gentleman who came in with his wife and when they left it was like such a relief – like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders – that human experience is so impactful.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.

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