Cancer Care Unit will have a home of its own

The Kingman Cancer Care Unit finally has a place to call its own.

The grand opening of the Kingman Cancer Care Boutique and office Friday will mark the unit's first real home, organizer and cancer survivor Helen Graves said.

The group has leased a 2,000-square-foot building at 202 N.

4th St.

Graves, who organized the volunteer, non-profit Kingman Cancer Care Unit in 1994, said the boutique is something the group has wanted to do for some time.

"We need to raise more money," she said.

"There are a lot of cancer patients in Kingman."

Graves said the boutique is an "upscale thrift store" with antique furniture, vintage clothing and items such as Roseville pottery, an Anna Lee doll, Victorian glassware and Avon collector's items.

Also sold: new furniture and a variety of other items, as well as See's Candy.

There is also a vanity where cancer patients can try on wigs available free of charge.

The floor below the boutique is stacked with medical equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, urinals and shower chairs.

Although cancer patients have priority, patients who have suffered a heart attack or a stroke can also have the equipment free of change, Graves said.

The grand opening of the boutique will start at 5 p.m.

Friday.

Normal hours of operation will be 10 a.m.

to 4 p.m.

Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m.

to 2 p.m.

Saturday.

To make a donation, or to become a Kingman Cancer Care Unit sponsor or volunteer, call 753-4298 or 753-3331.

(FROM HERE IS BACKGROUND, CUT BE CUT ANYWHRE - ROB M.)

More than 50 years ago Graves, the driving force behind the Kingman Cancer Care Unit, made a promise that if she survived thyroid cancer she would devote her life to helping others with the disease.

She did survive and has spent more than half a century making good on her promise.

Diagnosed with thyroid and parathyroid cancer at the age of 23, Graves battled the disease, only to be told at one point that she would not live more than two years.

For the next five years Graves, who was married and had one child, became listless and had little energy.

"Finally one day my doctor said 'Just lay there and die.

I don't care what you do.' He didn't have a good bedside manner," Graves said with a laugh.

But it was the motivation she needed.

"After he left I looked up and said 'Well God, if you help me, I will help others,'" she said.

Graves' cancer has been in remission ever since, and she went on the have four more children.

She also has worked fulltime at the downtown Kingman branch of the U.S.

Post Office for the past 27 years and has been the driving force behind an annual arts and crafts festival to benefit cancer victims.

Graves was also active in the American Cancer Society but became frustrated when money raised in Kingman left the area.

The Kingman Cancer Care Unit, conceived in 1994, grew out of a desire to help cancer patients within the Kingman community.

"Patients here had a problem getting things done.

They had to wait.

There is no red tape with the unit.

We just verify that the patient has cancer.

Patients don't want to wait days or weeks if they need something," Graves said.

Money raised during the arts and crafts festival and other events go directly to local cancer patients rather than to a nationwide organization to distribute.

"People don't mind helping, because the money helps friends and neighbors here in Kingman," she said.

One of Kingman's few all-volunteer, non-profit organizations, the unit, a group of 22 volunteers, raises money to help patients with prescriptions and transportation as well as room and board when they get treatment at the Arizona Cancer Center Medical Oncology Clinic in Tucson.

Patients also receive help with personal items such as wigs, prosthesis, health equipment and emergency assistance.

Louise Botts doesn't know how her family would manage without the help of the unit.

"They have helped with money and love," Botts said of the unit.

"We absolutely would not be able to afford the medicine without them."

The Bottses have received help from the unit since February 2000 and have set up an account at a local pharmacy allowing Phillip Botts $1,000 of medicine a year.

Botts is not the only cancer patients the unit has assisted.

Last month it helped 18 patients.

Pharmacy bills alone run about $3,000 a month, and transportation costs when patients in outlying areas need to come into town for radiation or chemotherapy treatments, or when they need to go to Phoenix, can be $1,000.

The unit receives no funding from any source because the group has not had a physical address.

Before now wigs and medical equipment has been kept in hall closets here and there.