UAMS Cancer Institute Names Wig Boutique in Memory of Northwest Arkansas Mom

By Holland Doran

Jo Ann Johnson (center) cuts a ribbon to signify the naming of the UAMS Cancer Institute’s wig boutique in memory of her daughter, Kristen J. Madsen. Also participating were (left to right) Carla Emanuel; Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D.; husband Butch Johnson; grandson Aaron Whitt; and Catherine Tapp.

Kristen J. Madsen’s family and friends participate in Seed of Hope token ceremony at the UAMS Cancer Institute.

Members of the Ovarian Cancer Northwest Arkansas Teen Council participated in a day-long experience learning about advances in ovarian cancer research and treatment.

A 39-year-old mother of two sons, Madsen died in 2009 of ovarian cancer. Since her death, Madsen’s family members have devoted their time to promoting ovarian cancer awareness and raising funds for research through the Wig Out to Defeat Ovarian Cancer event and the Ovarian Cancer Northwest Arkansas Teen Council.

Proceeds from the 2013 Wig Out event totaling almost $54,000 were donated to the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute to support gynecologic oncology research. In recognition of their donation, the institute unveiled the new name for its wig shop — the Kristen J. Madsen Wig Boutique — at the celebration. Located in the institute’s Patient Support Pavilion, the boutique offers a free wig and hats to each patient who has lost their hair due to cancer treatment.

“Kristen loved her hair, and after she lost it, she loved her wig,” said Jo Ann Johnson, Madsen’s mother. “She is smiling down on us today, knowing that this place is helping people get through their experience with cancer.”

Family members joining Johnson at the ceremony were Madsen’s father, Butch Johnson; son Aaron Whitt; sister Lynli Williams; and nieces Anna and Emily Williams.

“The wig boutique was deliberately placed in the center of our Patient Support Pavilion because it plays such a pivotal role in the emotional healing process for our patients. We are honored today to name this space after Kristen,” said Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D.

Members of the teen council also attended the ceremony following a day-long experience at the Cancer Institute touring research labs, hearing from physicians and scientists, and learning about advances in ovarian cancer detection and treatment.

Dyanne Gaillard Sykes developed the idea for the council after being asked to serve on the Wig Out planning board and committee. The group of 11 high school sophomores, plus a college advisor, will assist with the upcoming Wig Out fundraiser, scheduled for April 12 at Highlands Oncology Group in Rogers.

The girls also host other fundraising events and educate members of their community about ovarian cancer. Deemed “the disease that whispers,” ovarian cancer’s symptoms can be subtle, resulting in many women being diagnosed with late-stage disease. Symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and changes related to the urgency and frequency of urination.