Look good, feel better

St. Mary’s Bee Well Boutique is brightening the days of cancer patients with unique wigs, clothing and hygiene items

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Spreading the love: Lynn Carpenter oversees the daily operations of the Bee Well Boutique at St. Mary. The shop is located inside the hospital’s Cancer Center, serving as a one-stop-shop for unique, mostly locally-crafted items aimed at making the day of a cancer patient a little bit brighter. SAMANTHA BAMBINO TIMES PHOTO

Within the walls of St. Mary Medical Center, there is a hidden gem. It’s a place of comfort, a haven for individuals fighting to overcome one of the most challenging obstacles life can throw at them.

This quaint space tucked inside the hospital’s Cancer Center is the Bee Well Boutique, a one-stop-shop for unique, mostly locally-crafted items aimed at making the day of a cancer patient just a little bit brighter.

Upon walking into the boutique, visitors are instantly greeted by the friendly face of Lynn Carpenter, who oversees its daily operations. Previously, Carpenter served as St. Mary’s assistant breast navigator, advising cancer patients on where to go for free wigs and chemical-free hygiene products, among other necessities.

After nine years in the role, Carpenter had an epiphany. Instead of sending patients to multiple locations to find these items, there should be an all-encompassing place where they can purchase everything at once. Thanks to funding provided by St. Mary’s Community League, whose efforts also helped create the Healing Garden, the Bee Well Boutique opened its doors a little over a year ago.

Despite its intimate size, one could easily spend a good chunk of a morning exploring the shop. According to Carpenter, the hot spot of the boutique is a mini salon set up in one of the two side rooms. Perfectly placed on shelves that stretch from floor to ceiling are mannequin heads sporting a variety of lushious wigs. While a select few are available for purchase, the majority are free.

SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

Carpenter explained St. Mary is part of the American Cancer Society’s free wig program, which states that every cancer patient is entitled to one wig at no cost. Whether they’re a St. Mary patient or not, she welcomes any individual facing loss of hair due to chemotherapy to stop by the Bee Well Boutique and browse its selection of wigs.

In the mini salon, patients can also enjoy a makeover by a part-time cosmetologist. As part of St. Mary’s “Look Good, Feel Better” initiative, she’ll share beauty techniques to women who are actively undergoing cancer treatment. Patients will learn tips and tricks on how to combat the appearance-related side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, which Carpenter hopes will boost their confidence and help them feel more like their old selves.

On the main floor of the Bee Well Boutique, visitors can browse a vast selection of items geared toward cancer patients, as well as those with other medical conditions seeking a bit of comfort. According to Carpenter, a customer favorite that regularly flies off the shelves is a deodorant by Spero-Hope, LLC.

The face of the company is Jamie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before Christmas in 2012. After a bilateral mastectomy and four rounds of chemo, she is now cancer-free and devoting her energy to living a lifestyle without chemicals.

The deodorant, which is part of an extensive line of personal hygiene products, is aluminum, paraben and chemical free to help eliminate unnecessary pollutants in a cancer patient’s body. Carpenter explained the deodorant, which has a butter-like consistency, is applied by hand. This allows the user to easily examine their lymph nodes and determine if anything feels out of the ordinary.

Another top seller is the colorful pajama sets designed by New Hope’s Lauren Raja, owner of the all-things-cozy brand Justin Jean.

“There are very few things left that will make someone smile,” Carpenter said of cancer patients. “PJs usually do the trick.”

Especially Raja’s. Every pajama bottom comes equipped with adorable ruffles stitched to the back in a three-tiered style, allowing them to be the perfect blend of fashion, fun and comfort. Also available for purchase at the boutique are a number of other items including honey made by a group of New Jersey-based monks; colorful T-shirts stamped with the Bee Well Boutique logo; a pair of miniature, hot pink boxing gloves, which are representative of all individuals fighting cancer every day; and a mist cleverly called Cool Hottie, which helps relieve hot flashes and the afterburn of radiation.

SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

For Carpenter, the Bee Well Boutique isn’t about making money. In fact, all proceeds go straight to St. Mary and the efforts of its Cancer Center. Her only wish is that it serves as a welcoming space to everyone who walks through the door. Most of the boutique’s volunteers are cancer survivors, and are always willing to lend an ear to nervous patients and loved ones alike before a treatment session.

“They know what it feels like,” Carpenter said. “It’s a sympathetic, comfortable, cozy place.” ••

The Bee Well Boutique sits adjacent to the St. Mary Cancer Center, 1201 Langhorne-Newtown Road in Langhorne. Its hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit communityleague-stmary.org/bee-well-boutique for more information.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com