A good fit at specialty boutique for cancer patients
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent August 27, 2014 10:52AM
Robin Jean and Norene DeLaurentis help women recovering from breast cancer and other cancers choose swimwear specifically designed for cancer patients at Lynn's Boutique in Franciscan St. James' Comprehensive Cancer Center. | Ginger Brashinger/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 28, 2014 2:19AM
Lynn’s Boutique, a specialty shop in Franciscan St. James Health’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in Olympia Fields, expects to experience a smooth transition at the end of this month.
Norene DeLaurentis, a certified post-mastectomy prosthetic and bra fitter, will retire Friday, and Robin Jean, of Blue Island, will take over the position, having completed 500 hours of training with DeLaurentis in addition to completing an eight-hour class required for certification.
DeLaurentis, 74, of Lansing, has had a 28-year career in the field. She has been with Lynn’s Boutique — her favorite of several places of employment — for six years, she said.
She came to her rewarding career when, as a part-time employee in 1979 at Marshall Field’s, DeLaurentis became interested in the bra-fitting department because fitters were helping breast cancer patients, she said.
DeLaurentis said it was a good start on a new career for her, but a “less than ideal” situation because women who were still struggling with the realities of breast cancer might have a fitting in a stall next to a young woman who was preparing for a happy event.
“I always wanted to have a private setting,” DeLaurentis said.
Positions in her field at two other locations did not feel right, either, DeLaurentis said, and she was unsure whether she should pursue her dream “to have my own boutique.”
Just when DeLaurentis was questioning in 2008 whether her career had come to an end, Susan Marcek, nurse navigator for the Cancer Center, called DeLaurentis to ask her to consider working at Lynn’s Boutique.
DeLaurentis started slowly — one day a week at first — but she soon realized she had found her niche, she said.
“That was it. I absolutely loved it,” she said.
DeLaurentis said she has “not had one day” when she did not want to go to work.
“This is exactly what I dreamed of,” she said.
The boutique, founded by Anthony Panici in honor of his wife Lynn, who died of breast cancer at age 34, offers women with breast cancer and other cancers the chance to shop for pretty things and feel good about themselves despite their illnesses.
In addition to prosthetics and post-mastectomy bras, the boutique offers swimwear, lingerie, women’s accessories and inspirational items.
DeLaurentis said each woman who comes into the shop is unique and is treated as special.
“Every lady that comes in is in a different stage,” she said. “You have to read that woman.”
DeLaurentis said she and Jean get to know their clients by spending as much time with them as necessary to bring about a good outcome, from 30 minutes to nearly two hours.
“We listen to them because they need to tell their story. You have to really be a mom and cry with them, laugh with them,” DeLaurentis said of her clients. “Whatever they’re feeling, you feel.”
Jean said she has already learned about the importance of developing a relationship with the clients. She said women come to the shop “from all walks of life,” some wanting “to get their sexy back” and some “just want to get up in the morning and feel normal again.
“I’ve grown to really love it and I can’t see myself ... doing anything different because of the satisfaction and the gratitude that you get (in) the faces of the patients you help,” Jean said.
Her commitment is already set, Jean said, but she has concerns about following in DeLaurentis’s footsteps.
“Her shoes are shoes that cannot be filled,” Jean said. “She is phenomenal. Everybody asks for her. I have to make my own way.”