Bethany Golden was 23 years old when her mother’s 11-year battle with breast cancer came to an end.
Bonnie Ritchie was diagnosed with the disease at 39 and underwent a bilateral mastectomy in 1991. But her life was difficult when it came to cancer aesthetics.
“There was no insurance coverage for reconstruction, or breast prosthetics or bras at that time,” Golden said. “The bras and products that were available were awful. They looked like they were for a 90-year-old woman and certainly not a 39-or-40-year-old woman. So they just weren’t functional, let alone fashionable at whatsoever.”
Golden added that the bras were “hot and heavy.”
“That was unappealing all the way around,” she said.
Ritchie was 50 years old when she died in 2002, the same year Golden graduated from The Ohio State University. Golden, who wanted to help cancer patients such as her mother, studied product development and fashion merchandising.
“It was always my goal to create products or had products that were of the best quality so you just felt better at a difficult time,” she said.
In 2007, Golden purchased the Over My Head boutique that now provides prosthetic breasts and head coverings for cancer patients and survivors. Five years later, she relocated the business to the OhioHealth Bing Cancer Center at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus.
The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 now provides protections to have breast reconstruction in connection with a mastectomy.
The boutique has served 2,500 clients since 2012 including 200 clients from Delaware County, a number that surprised Golden.
“(Delaware County has) quite the population of cancer survivors there that not only are being diagnosed currently but that have been diagnosed years in the past that still need prosthetics and head fittings,” Golden said.
Delaware residents can now enjoy a shorter commute to receive the same service after Golden started a monthly fitting at the Delaware Medical Campus, located at 801 OhioHealth Blvd., in June. She provides fittings at the campus for clients on the third Tuesday of each month but said the number of fittings could increase.
“As it grows, the time that we have there will grow as well,” Golden said.
The next session is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 18.
The Delaware campus provides a room that has a few mirrors with built-in light fixtures similar to a traditional dressing room and there are mannequin heads with wigs on display in a corner so clients can preview various wigs.
“We are so excited to have Over My Head Boutique doing fittings at the Delaware Medical Campus,” said Mindy Sanford, director of clinical support at the Delaware campus. “Their services help women feel a sense of normalcy before and after treatment and having opportunities for fittings right here in Delaware, where they are receiving their cancer care, adds an element of convenience to the process for our patients.”
As of Monday, Golden has some clients booked for Tuesday but hopes to have a full day. She typically works with clients a week before the appointment to narrow down their preferences. The fittings last about an hour scheduled for each client.
Golden works with her clients’ health insurance and, if needed, the OhioHealth Foundation to cover the costs for the boutique’s products, which are manufactured elsewhere. Hair alternatives include hats, scarves, turbans and wigs that come in different styles and colors. Post-breast surgery clients can get their chest wall digitally scanned for a breast prosthetic that fits like a “puzzle piece,” she said.
“We are the only boutique that provides custom breast prosthetic,” Golden said.
Her products have exceeded the expectations of clients who are typically nervous, anxious and reluctant about using them when they come in for their fittings, she said.
“It has been a great experience,” Golden said.
Appointments for a fitting at Over My Head Boutique can be made by calling the Delaware Medical Campus at 740-615-0228.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.