BONIFAY — “One of the questions we get asked the most is how does sending money out to a big organization like the American Cancer Society help small counties like Holmes County,” said DeAnna Oldham, Event Chair of the Holmes County Relay for Life. “They think that because there isn’t a research facility in Holmes County that the money isn’t coming back into Holmes County. What they fail to realize is that the majority of the money goes to pay for Holmes County residents who leave for treatments.”
Oldham added that there is many programs located in Holmes County still that help provide services and good to cancer patients within Holmes County.
One organization that the money does come back into Holmes County for is The Closet, located at the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce located less than a block from the old Bonifay Hospital at 106 East Byrd Avenue in Bonifay.
The Closet provides hats, scarves, work hats for both men and women, wigs of all kinds and colors, prosthetic breasts, bras of all kinds and colors specially made for prosthetic breasts, cammies/softies, handmade comfy pillows, make-up availability, drivers, gas money, hotel and motel vouchers, supplies, support groups and single support from those who’ve experienced cancer and much more.
Elaine Mayfield, volunteer with The Closet, said that her volunteer work with The Closet has changed her life.
“I came in expecting to work with people who are dying,” said Mayfield. “Instead I found that I’m working with people who are truly living.”
Julia Bullington, coordinator and volunteer with The Closet, said that it puts things into perspective.
“You get to thinking that all life’s little issues are so important,” said Bullington. “There’s meetings and schedules and appointments and they’re all so very important until you gain perspective from some of these women who come in who are truly living their lives to the fullest each day and suddenly you see what in life truly matters.”
Bullington and Mayfield shared a story about an elderly woman in her mid 70s that came in after much cancer treatment and was looking to get a wig to replace the hair she had lost.
“Originally she had this neat salt and pepper hair and we fitted her with hair that was really close to what she had before,” said Bullington. “Her husband was sitting in their vehicle with a magazine waiting and when she first came out with her wig he just glanced up and said that it was nice and went on reading.”
Bullington said she went back in and decided to go with a wig much like ‘70s model and actress Farrah Fawcett.
“When she walked out with that wig on he put down his magazine, he came out of the car and his eyes lit up,” said Bullington. “The first words that came out of his mouth were ‘you are beautiful!’”
Mayfield explained that the most that women are looking for when they come to The Closet is to feel normal again; “to feel like a woman again.”
Mayfield said that her first experience was with a woman who had a radical Mastectomy, which is where they surgically removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely.
“I wasn’t prepared for what I saw,” said Mayfield. “It was horrible and I tried to be respectful and remain steady, but it was her to say ‘they made a mess, didn’t they?’ I never would have imagined just how courageous and strong they are, even with their frail bodies.”
She said after that experience she had made it her goal to help correct the “messes” that cancer had made in the lives of these people’s lives.
“What people do is come here looking for simple things like a scarf or a wig and they end up finding so much more,” said Bullington. “I didn’t realize how much I would’ve become involved and how much of me would be leaving with every person. It’s an amazing feeling watching these women transform into beautiful, happy women; going from sad to joyful.”
Mayfield told about a young lady in her late twenties who had a double Mastectomy came in and said “can you just give me some boobs and a wig?” and “can we get those a couple sizes bigger?”
“The most amazing part is when she said she felt like a woman again,” said Mayfield. “We got her into her wig and her new bra and she looked in the mirror and said ‘Oh my gosh! I’m kinda hot!’ That’s what makes this all worth while; giving back what cancer has stolen.”
Mayfield also added there was a program that gave free make-up makeovers for cancer patients which includes free make-up valued in the hundreds of dollars.
“They use top-of the line products to restore facial tissue and renew a woman’s appearance after it has been ravaged by countless cancer treatments,” said Mayfield. “The clinics are located in Dothan and Crestview and the patients do have to get there on their own, but it is more than worth it.”
Bullington wanted to clarify that The Closet isn’t there just for breast cancer patients and they do give replacement prosthetics, bras, etc.
“It’s great when they get a wig and they ask how much it is and we can tell them it is free because of those who support their local Relay for Life and give to the American Cancer Society,” said Bullington. “So I say that if they want to repay them then when they get better they should give back by becoming a team member for Relay for Life and raise money for others just like them. It’s a very rewarding challenge and it makes you appreciate what you have.”
For more information on The Closet in Holmes County or more programs available contact the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce at 547-4682.