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Specialty store caters to cancer patients

Photo by Valerie Baldowski
Store employee Beverly Rettig arranges some of the wigs on display at Cat's Pajamas Ltd. Rettig said a customer's insurance will usually cover the cost of buying a wig, for cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy.

Photo by Valerie Baldowski Store employee Beverly Rettig arranges some of the wigs on display at Cat's Pajamas Ltd. Rettig said a customer's insurance will usually cover the cost of buying a wig, for cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy.

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Women who have suffered through the ordeal of cancer have a special place to go in McDonough, to meet some of their specific needs.

Cat's Pajamas Ltd., located at 48 Griffin Street, on the McDonough Square, sells wigs and prosthetics for cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy, or had a mastectomy.

The store's cheerful red walls, soft music and plush couches, placed strategically in front of bright, sunny windows, welcome its clients. Colorful, stylized cats dance on the walls, and large, wooden letters spelling "Imagine," "Dream," and "Inspire," provide encouragement.

Tuesday, employee Beverly Rettig was primping and fluffing the wig of a customer seated in a swivel chair in front of a large mirror, giving her hair-care instructions. Shop Owner Diane Moore was talking with another customer, as she fitted the woman with a wig.

Cat's Pajamas has been at its location since 2005, said Moore. Most customers learn of its existence through referrals by their physicians, but word-of-mouth-advertising by other cancer patients also plays a part, she said. "We literally get people from all over the state," said Moore.

The business averages about 50 customers a week, and opening a shop like Cat's Pajamas was necessary, Moore continued, because of the needs of cancer patients on the Southside.

"This particular area of Georgia was pretty much underserved," said Moore. "People were having to go to the north side of Atlanta ... wherever they could find, to get a really good wig, and also to get fitted for the bras and prostheses.

"I feel that ladies should be served in their own community," she said. "That's very important. When they're going through chemo and radiation, and all these type things, I think we need to be right here in this community."

Some pharmacies and "Durable Medical Equipment" companies offer similar products and services, but Moore said Cat's Pajamas specializes in the particular niche of customers it serves.

As for how the business got its name, she said she chose a phrase from a past era, used to pay a rare compliment. "It's an old expression that a lot of people don't know," added Moore. "Some people know the expression 'the cat's meow,' but 'cat's pajamas' is an old expression that came out of the 1920s," she explained.

"People said, oh, if you're the cat's pajamas, that means you are really sharp, you are really something. I wanted something fun and different. A lot of times, when they [the ladies] leave here, I tell them they're the cat's pajamas," said Moore.

Cancer patients needing financial help to restore a healthy glow after their treatments are usually eligible for assistance, said Rettig, the store's account manager, who also helps walk-in customers.

"We have mastectomy products, and with wigs, insurance will pay for them," said Rettig. "About 75 percent of our wig customers are chemo patients, and a lot of your commercial insurance companies will cover wigs, with women in chemo."

Rettig, a medical insurance biller for 20 years, has worked at Cat's Pajamas since 2006. She said what makes the shop important is the service it provides. "As a woman, if I had to have a mastectomy, or if I were to lose my hair because of an illness, I would be very vain about that," said Rettig.

"It's almost like a mission to make them feel more like a woman, to help them get through what they have to get through," she added. "We want them to feel like 'the cat's pajamas' when they leave."