At new Hanover location, LifeChanges offers help for cancer's physical effects
Diana Klunk remembers lying on the operating table before her surgeon removed a lime-sized tumor from her breast.
The Stage 3B tumor imitated a cyst for a year before the breast cancer diagnosis came in December 2006, when she was 47, she said.
"So when they tell you that, the first thing most people think is, 'I'm gonna lose my hair,'" the Hanover resident said. "Dying was not an option."
Fueled by her experience, Klunk in October 2008 opened a specialty boutique in Hanover Hospital's wellness center for people whose diseases cause physical changes.
This year, LifeChanges Boutique has a new location: her old surgeon's building, where she so vividly remembers the cancer beginning to leave her body.
Mission: Klunk started chemo in March 2009, and her husband shaved her head in April — her hair was past her shoulders and not yet falling out, she said.
She then went through eight rounds of chemo, 33 radiation treatments, a double mastectomy, breast reconstruction and more.
In the early stages of her diagnosis, Klunk said she found a couple of wigs at wig shops — but she didn't find the guidance she needed. She was more of a scarf girl, anyway.
Her shop has products from wigs to breast prostheses to compression garments to camisoles with drain containment pockets for excess fluids after breast surgery, she said.
"I truly am convinced that God gave me cancer so that I would learn all this stuff and do this. ... My mission is to provide services and goods and products for people when they need it the most," Klunk said.
'A blessing': Jo Ann Baum knitted hats for Klunk's cancer clients at LifeChanges, but she said she never thought she'd be a patient there.
Baum said in June 2013 she was diagnosed with lung cancer — she never smoked, but doctors point to the possibility of environmental causes.
"I didn't want to take it as a death sentence," said Baum, 72, of Jackson Township.
She had success with a targeted therapy pill for a year and a half and bought wigs at LifeChanges after her fine hair thinned. She said it was fun — some wigs made her giggle.
"It's an environment where they really care. I felt right at home," Baum said. "I think (Klunk) has done so much for so many people in the community that it's just a blessing that she is there."
New location: A Thursday open house will formally celebrate the shop's new location, which has been good for business, Klunk said.
"I have a lot more visibility from the street, and I think that helps," she said.
Some clients have had their hair grow back — Klunk, who's in remission, said her own came back thinner — so LifeChanges now also has a licensed hair salon.
The newly renovated building has more space and has gotten compliments, but Klunk said some clients are wary.
"Some people were treated here who have some reservations about coming back," she said.
The surgeon's office would tell patients about LifeChanges when it first opened, and Klunk said she returned to find her old business cards and, near a telephone, a Post-it with her business name on it.
"To me, because this is where I was treated, I feel like it's come full circle," she said.
— Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.