Specializing in helping breast cancer patients - Tucson Local Media: News

Specializing in helping breast cancer patients

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Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 3:38 pm

A breast cancer diagnosis is already tough enough to deal with, but having to consider what bras to wear after surgery, where to purchase wigs and hair-loss accessories without proper assistance can just add to the stress.

To reduce that stress, advise patients, support survivors and provide badly needed merchandise is Nannette van der Sanden of the Commenci store in Marana.

Sanden, who worked as an oncology nurse, knows how a woman feels with a breast-cancer diagnosis. She knows what women need, and she’s worked to put all of it into one store on Ina Road.

Among some of the items she sells, Sanden offers mastectomy bras, wigs, hair-loss accessories, silicone and leisure breast forms, hats and scarves, and gift items for family members and friends wanting to help a cancer patient.

After having a mastectomy, Sanden said it’s important for women to know what items to purchase for post-surgery.

Sanden shows women what to wear immediately following the surgery, what to wear six to eight weeks after surgery, and how to keep the surgery area clean to avoid infection.

Following a mastectomy, it’s not as simple as just wearing a padded bra. There is some drainage, which requires a special kind of bra known as a post-surgical camisole.

Kathy Thompson, of the Camisole Connection, is a breast cancer survivor and makes the camisole, which is a garment designed to be worn by lumpectomy and mastectomy patients immediately following breast cancer surgery. These garments can be worn over compression bandages and drain tubes. They contain hidden pockets that hold drain bulbs, and they allow the patient to continue wearing normal clothing.

While coming into the store and seeking assistance is easy for some women, Sanden said others can’t even talk about what they are about to go through, or about the surgery and procedures they’ve already had.

“After the surgery, some women can’t even look in a mirror, while others look at it as a new phase in their lives,” said Sanden. “I will always be an oncology nurse, I just don’t poke anyone anymore.”

Serving in oncology since 1985, Sanden said it became clear 11 years ago that she could better serve her patients by opening a store aimed at not only providing the merchandise they need, but also the emotional support they require.

Besides operating a business, Sanden has also organized a support group for local cancer patients since 1987.

Many of the support-group members agree that it’s Sanden who has helped them through some tough times. The group meets regularly, and much of the focus is making sure all the members are happy, have a positive attitude and get the information they need.

Dorothy Nelson, who has Stage 4 breast cancer in the bones, says she looks forward to the monthly support group, noting that they particularly enjoy drinking margaritas at the local Macayo’s Mexican Restaurant on Oracle Road.

Recently, about 20 members of the group gathered to drink, eat and celebrate Sanden’s birthday.

Nancy Wall called the support group a “valuable resource.”

“Sometimes you can share things with (group members) that you can’t share with friends or family because you don’t want them to worry,” she said. “We share tears, but we always come away from the group laughing.”

Besides the support group and merchandise, Sanden also shows patients the proper way to shave their heads, and helps measure for wigs. She works with them to decide the proper hair length for a wig and what to wear on days patients would rather not wear a wig.

Commenci is located at 2860 W. Ina Road, Suite 120. For more information, log onto the website at www.commenci.com.

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