In October 2014, Rita Jensen was looking forward to her sister launching a long-anticipated salon so she could get back to work as a hairdresser. But on the day her sister got word that she could open, Rita found out she had breast cancer.
Her certain future was suddenly extremely uncertain and she didn’t know where to turn. She didn’t even know what she needed to know.
“I cried for hours,” the Harrisburg, PA, woman said.
As she struggled to cope with the diagnosis and the multitude of decisions that she now faced, friends suggested she talk to Brian Gaughan, the owner of Pink Hands of Hope, a Mechanicsburg thrift shop with special services for breast cancer patients. He’d been through it with his wife, Laurie, and he is now devoted to making it easier for others who face the disease.
“He answered all of my questions,” Rita said. “He told me what to expect. He was a Godsend. The whole place has been a Godsend.”
Brian started Pink Hands of Hope in 2008 as a way to provide the help and services that weren’t available when his wife went through breast cancer treatments. It started as a way to raise money for women who were struggling with bills and has grown into much more.
It looks like a consignment shop with gently used furniture and nicely displayed clothes, but all items have been donated. In addition, the entrance to the shop is through a room filled with things to help cancer patients including wigs, head wraps, lotions and knitted knockers, prosthetics for women who have undergone a mastectomy. If there’s not one that will fit, one can be specially made by the volunteers who knit them.
The shop helps to raise awareness about breast cancer and encourages women to be proactive with their health by getting a regular mammogram. Women who have been diagnosed can get guidance and encouragement from volunteers, many of whom have been through treatment themselves.
If women are struggling with bills due to treatment, Pink Hands of Hope will help to cover the cost of treatment or other expenses. The organization also arranges a full-day of pampering for women during treatment complete with a makeover, limo ride and dinner.
“It makes such a difference to have people taking care of you in this way when you’re going through so much,” said Rita, who got her makeover after chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. “You get to feel a little bit like yourself again. Cancer really changes you and you never really go back, but it helps to see that who you were is still there.”
Pink Hands of Hope will be hosting its annual “I’m Bald and Beautiful” Fashion Show on Saturday, Oct. 1st. The show helps raise funds for services but more importantly, it features patients and celebrates their endurance.
The models who are volunteers and women who have been nominated pick out clothes from the shop to model. During the show, they’ll share their stories and encourage others who are fighting the disease.