Tuesday, February 19, 2019


Susan's Special Needs for women with hair loss, closes after 20 years

 - A specialty retailer in pleasant ridge is closing its doors after 20 years in business.
"Susan's Special Needs" has served women undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and hair loss - and much more.
Susan Thomas is the founder and president of the business.
"I'm so grateful. I've had a very unique opportunity that most people don't even have," she said. "We have made life-long friends with families and lifelong friends with women who e-mail me, who are happy for me and sad for me at the same time. 
Susan is retiring but before she closes up shop, she is having a retirement sale offering 50 percent to 80 percent off of all merchandise. 
She decided to use her energy to help others.
"Being a parent who lost a child suddenly, our whole world collapsed. It was my choice to work and to put my focus on someone else's needs other than my own. So from that perspective, I have to say that even though I may have touched the lives of many women and helped them, it was really they who helped me."
The store's final day is in late February. While the brick and mortar store location will be closed, Susan will continue to offer service's a private consultation basis in various locations in Michigan on an appointment only basis.


Special care to continue after closing of Susan's Special Needs Shop in Pleasant Ridge


Susan’s Special Needs to Close; Consultations Will Continue By Appointment
(Leslie Ellis, Feb. 17, 2019)
Pleasant Ridge, MI-  Being diagnosed with breast cancer plunges a woman into a surreal gauntlet of sterile hospital rooms, unfamiliar medical terms, anxious loved ones and, often, distressing physical changes.
When such a shell-shocked woman walks into Susan’s Special Needs in Pleasant Ridge, she finds more than a boutique offering wigs, turbans, bras and breast forms. She finds a caring guide to help her navigate chemotherapy, radiation and post-surgical challenges.
Now, after more than two decades in business, owner Susan Thomas plans to transform her retail model. The Susan’s Special Needs shop will close by the end of February. Instead, Thomas, 68, will offer her services by appointment at locations throughout Metro Detroit.
“The whole retail landscape has changed,” with more people shopping online, Thomas said. “On a positive note, fewer women need wigs because early stage patients are less likely to receive chemo. And, there are chemo drugs that don’t cause hair loss.”
Closing the shop and becoming a consultant is bittersweet, Thomas said.
The former oncology nurse launched Susan’s Special Needs as a wholesale operation in 1994, following her own breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as the loss of a child.
“Working was my way of coping and healing,” Thomas said. “Instead of focusing on my needs, I could focus on helping others.”
In 2000, she opened the shop’s initial brick-and-mortar location in Ferndale, before moving to the current building in Pleasant Ridge. During the past 11 years, Thomas has helped more than 11,567 clients.
“There wasn’t a store like this that allowed women to talk with someone who would understand what their needs would be,” Thomas said.
Former Susan’s Special Needs customer Jodie Wilson, 38, of San Antonio, Texas, said that understanding had a profound impact on her experience.
“It was not easy losing my hair at 26 years old. I was told Susan’s was the best place to go for a wig. The women who work there absolutely understood what I was going through. Losing my hair was the first outward symbol of my sickness. The rest of the world would now know I wasn’t OK. I couldn’t hide. It was hard to face,” Wilson said. “The women at Susan’s helped me. They even shaved what hair I had left. It was not easy, but having compassionate, understanding women helping me meant so much to me.
“I went with my mother and sister after a chemo treatment feeling awful. I was down. Feeling sad for myself,” Wilson continued. “My hair was falling out exponentially and I was finally having to accept I had cancer. I was emotional to say the least. I left knowing that there was hope. I did not have to feel sad. I needed to feel proud of what I was going through and what I was going to face. These women want to help us face our worst time with the most confidence.”
For Thomas, that was always the goal.
“What I learned (from my customers) is that we’re all out here to support and love each other,” Thomas said. “I was fortunate to be in a business where I got to do that.”
The Susan’s Special Needs phone number will continue to work after the physical shop closes, so customers can reach Thomas to book wig and post-mastectomy consultations, she said.
“Susan’s will always be available,” Thomas said. “I’m looking forward to doing business in a new way.”
Susan’s Special Needs will offer 50-80 percent off all merchandise until the Pleasant Ridge boutique closes in late February. The store’s furniture, displays and office fixtures also are available for purchase.  The store is located at 24052 Woodward Avenue in Pleasant Ridge.  Even after the store closes, the phone number will work for those wanting to set up an appointment, (248) 544-4287.   More info. can also be found online at www.susansspecialneeds.com


Susan's Special Needs in Pleasant Ridge closing after nearly 20-year run

  • Store to close around end of February
  • E-commerce took "significant" toll on bottom line of business for women going through chemotherapy, hair loss, menopause
  • Founder Susan Thomas will continue offering services part time
  • Susan's Special Needs via Facebook
    Susan's Special Needs sells merchandise for women going through chemotherapy or menopause in Pleasant Ridge at 24052 Woodward Ave. Owner Susan Thomas plans to close around late February.
    A store in Pleasant Ridge that serves women going through chemotherapy, hair loss or menopause is closing.
    Susan Thomas, founder of Susan's Special Needs on Woodward Avenue, is selling off inventory and then plans to close the shop around Feb. 28.
    She's had a rewarding, nearly 20-year run at the store, she said, but more women turning to the internet for products has hurt its bottom line.
    Susan Thomas and her husband, David
    An oncology nurse who went through breast cancer herself, Thomas sells clothing, hats, wigs and other apparel that accommodates women who need specialty items — swimsuits with mastectomy pockets or light pajamas for hot flashes, for example. Susan's Special Needs also carries creams and other skin care products for women in chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
    Thomas, 68, is also offloading furniture and fixtures at the 24052 Woodward Ave. space.
    "The past couple years we've had to address the change in the retail landscape … the way that women shop is different," Thomas said. "Online presence has affected our business."
    She declined to provide financial details, but said the hit has been "significant enough for me to make this choice" to close.
    That's not the only factor, though. More positively, Thomas said, she's also seen a decline in demand due to changes in medical treatment.
    Susan's Special Needs
    Susan's Special Needs in Pleasant Ridge sells items for women undergoing chemotherapy or in menopause including wigs, mastectomy bras and light lounge wear.
    "(Many) women with early stage (breast cancer) are not treated with big-time, hardcore chemotherapy anymore," she said. "The need for a wig and anticipated hair loss is less than it used to be. That is great news; it's news we all want to hear."
    After the doors close, Thomas plans to continue working part time consulting with women facing the same issues. Many of the details are yet to be finalized, she said, but customers will still be able to access her services.
    Thomas has firmed up one part of the plan: She and a Susan's Special Needs employee will do wig styling, cutting and fitting at Antonino Salon & Spa in Birmingham.
    Thomas has six employees, some of whom she expects some to continue working with her and others to retire.
    "I have had the blessing and honor to take care of many, many women throughout these 20 years," she said. "It has been a privilege and blessing to service ... educate and help people."


    Pleasant Ridge cancer patient shop closing at end of month


    Pleasant Ridge — After beating breast cancer, Susan Thomas realized that as an oncology nurse and a patient, she was in a unique position to help others.
    So she worked with her husband to make survivors' lives easier by offering products with a personal touch as they dealt with their disease. After almost two decades, she's decided to close up shop for retirement, and because of changing shopping habits and improved methods for treating breast cancer.
    "Our culture is changing," said Thomas, 68. "Online shopping has taken over, and research is indicating women with early-age breast disease aren't receiving as much chemotherapy and are not losing as much hair. And that's wonderful news."
    Thomas said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, during which time she had a mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy.  She quickly discovered how few products were available for women going through cancer treatment.
    "My experience was awful looking for products with my upcoming needs and need for guidance," said Thomas.

    She and her husband, David, opened up a wholesale business selling wigs. In 2000, they launched Susan's Special Needs in Pleasant Ridge to offer products to women undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, menopause (a side effect of treatment) and hair loss. 
    Her website features the phrase: "A survivor's passion to help."
    "When people come into my store, they’re frightened, they're scared. But because I’ve lived it, they meet me and they relax," said Thomas. "That's what made this all special. We offered private consultation rooms and educated the clients on a wide range of products."

    Laura Zubeck, director of patient and community education at Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, said she sends many patients to Susan's Special Needs because there are not a lot of specialty shops around.
    "Susan and her staff have provided a unique service to so many women with garments and wigs for many years," Zubeck said. "A cancer diagnosis changes a woman’s normal, how you look, how you feel and Susan gave a little of that back to them. The care they provided was done with dignity and kindness supporting each woman individually with her needs. Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t always cover the cost of the specialty items."
    Almost 20 years and 11,500 customers later, the Thomases will close the shop Feb. 28. Merchandise including hats; human hair and synthetic wigs; turbans; mastectomy bras and  accessories are offered for sale at up to 80 percent off, Thomas said.
    Two years after she was diagnosed, Thomas said she lost her oldest daughter suddenly at the age of 12, but working kept her focused on her patients and helped her through her grief. 
    "I've learned (that) as much as I help people, people help me," she said. 
    That why it's such a "bittersweet moment" to retire, Thomas said. She plans to continue some of her work of the past two decades by offering private hair and wig consultations at Antonino Salon and Spa in Birmingham. (To schedule a consultation, call (248) 544-4287.
    "It’s a very sad time and happy time," she said. "New opportunity, new adventures ahead."
    Twitter: @SarahRahal_

    Saturday, February 9, 2019

    More Women Reported to Have Rare Cancer Linked to Breast Implants

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    More Women Reported to Have Rare Cancer Linked to Breast Implants
    Credit: Shutterstock

    More cases of a rare cancer linked to breast implants have been reported in the U.S., according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
    This week, the FDA announced that it had received a total of 660 reports of this cancer — called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) — over an eight-year period ending in September 2018. That's 246 additional reports since the previous totals were released last year, the FDA said in a statement released yesterday (Feb. 6).
    The FDA said that such increases are to be expected given that the agency has worked to encourage patients and health care providers to report cases of breast implant-associated ALCL. However, the agency noted that some cases were reported more than once (for example, by both the patient and the health care provider). In all, there were 457 unique cases of this cancer, including nine deaths.
    ALCL is not breast cancer; rather, it is a type of lymphoma, which is a cancer of immune system cells. When it occurs in women with breast implants, the cancer typically appears in the scar tissue around the implant. Although most cases have occurred among women with textured breast implants, some cases were among women with smooth implants, the FDA said. But a number of reports did not include the type of texture of the implant, which makes it more difficult to know if certain types of implants are tied to a higher risk of this cancer.
    The FDA also said that it wants health care providers to be aware of breast implant-associated ALCL and to consider this diagnosis in patients with breast implants who have new symptoms of pain, swelling or lumps around their breast implants. By encouraging health care providers to report cases of breast cancer-associated ALCL, the FDA hopes to better understand the causes of the condition.
    Originally published on Live Science.