Helen's Room in Los Angeles provides women a free resource for post cancer treatment services such as wigs, hats, scarves, counseling, and support.
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Monica Kalm: Helen's Room, I started 10 years ago in August 1998 in Inglewood at Daniel Freeman Hospital in order to serve uninsured and under insured patients in a community where patients do not have the resources that they would normally have, to provide them with cosmetic and psychosocial resources while they are undergoing cancer treatment which would Radiation, Chemotherapy and Surgery. And the idea was to have patients referred to Helen's Room, once they are diagnosed with cancer and hopefully the medical Oncologist would advice them that one of the side effects of Chemotherapy usually would be hair loss and they would be able to come to Helen's Room and have a very safe, private, comfortable environment to have some of these needs to met. So that I would provide hats, wigs, pre tied scarves, all kinds of head wear that's comfortable, breast prosthesis for women who have had mastectomies, mastectomy bras all free of charge, that was the main mission, to provide free products to women any where in the community. After we opened it, patients started to come in and found that this was a wonderful resource. I do it by appointment. They come in and I provide about an hour to an hour an quarter for each patient, which gives them time to talk about the feelings that are going, the trauma of loosing control and loosing the one of those side effects of loosing hair. And then we start work on what products might make them feel better and usually there is a lot of laughter, there is lot of tears and patients go out feeling that they can manage and cope with this particular side effect of cancer treatment. The products are basically wigs, hats, scarves, pre tied turbans and things that are easy for the patients to use. Most of them I do buy through whole sellers and usually from companies who manufacture particularly for cancer patients. So that the products are, sometimes the fabric is unprotected and they are comfortable and easy to use. About 80% I would say of the products I do buy. Most of the funding comes from donations, but then I also do pick up donations from people either who have lost their loved one or who haven't used all of their products that I have given them and call me and will say they are unused, could I return them and of course I welcome that. And for patients who have lost their loved one it makes them feel good that their products can go to some good use. So I always except donations and sometimes the donations are absolutely gorgeous wigs that I wouldn't be able to afford normally for Helen's Room and so they get put to very good use. Helen's Room came about as a result of a very dear friendship of mine. I grew up in South Africa and so did Helen, our families were close friends. We both happen to immigrate to the United States around the same time and our friendship continued and in 1990 she was diagnosed with lung cancer. I had already been volunteering for the American Cancer Society, so I had been trained in resources and information and I was very, very close to her during her treatments and as a result of that I wanted to go into working with cancer patients as a volunteer. She died in 1992 and at that time image centers were being opened around Los Angeles to provide cancer patients with these resources, but there were not any that for free of charge and so the idea came to me to start something that would be free of charge to women who don't have the financial resources to benefit from the other organizations and to name it Helen's Room in her honor. This is such incredibly special work. It has changed my life and given me incredible perspective of how important it is to just to reach out and to help people who don't have the resources and just to give you a little idea, most people don't go to work and get letters of thank you and appreciation and I am blessed to have that. So if you don't mind, I would like to just read a paragraph from a very grateful patient which will give you an ide