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Shop gives hope to breast cancer victims

BY GINA WILKEN
DCN Reporter

On a brisk fall day, Joanna Regnier walks into work at Heide’s Mastectomy Shop with a goal not to just sell a product, but instead to give something that no price tag can offer— hope.

Quietly tucked away off Sixth Street East, the shop is where Regnier spends her days helping women who have undergone surgery from breast cancer find some sense of normalcy.

“My job has a different kind of gratification,? she said, while passing the many displays as she walks through the entrance and toward her office in the back of the store.

She greets the three other women who work there. Together they spend time trying to help other women overcome the effects of breast cancer.

“These people are here because they want to help,? Regnier said, as she answered the phone call of a new customer.

The plush couches and satin robes are almost enough to have a person forget why they’re really there.

“It has a real personal feeling,? Regnier said, paging through the recent orders placed through their Web site.

Heide’s Mastectomy Shop has been open for the past 15 years.

“It is a place where people can understand that they are OK,? store owner Kathy Heide-Wrazidlo said, after returning from her other store in Edina.

Customer Roberta Meyers is a breast cancer survivor herself and also the seamstress for Heide’s Mastectomy Shop. “As someone who has been there I just can’t say enough about them,? Meyers said. “They really go out of their way to make you feel comfortable.?

Regnier, who is certified in fitting both prosthetics and compression garments, did not imagine herself in this field of work originally.

While putting the finishing touches on a newspaper advertisement, she explained how she received a degree in elementary education and worked in a Duluth-area school for three years.

Even though she left that career behind, she said, her new job still helps her feel like an educator.

Breast cancer is an aspect of her work life and her personal life.

As she spoke, she pointed to a photo of her mom. Regnier’s mom began as a customer at Heide’s before she worked there and often tested out much of the merchandise.

“She was able to tell the customers which products worked best for her,? Regnier said. “It was a chance for other women to hear it from someone who is in their shoes.?

Last summer, Regnier lost her mother to breast cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. According to the American Cancer Society, it's estimated that this year alone about 178,480 women in the United States will be found to have invasive breast cancer. It is the most common cancer among women in the United States.

“We want to help women feel good about their new normal,? Regnier said. “It is just a minor bump in the road.?