Women supported breast cancer awareness month during October by visiting Intrigue Hair Salon in the Brick Walk in honor of its former receptionist, Fairfield native Casey Chernes Paules, who at 29 passed away from breast cancer this year.
Carolyn Goldstein Pease, co-owner of Intrigue, partnered with the Norma Pfriem Breast Care Center to raise money for breast cancer research, but there was more being raised than just money in this unassuming storefront — there was awareness, emotional support and friendship.
Through Oct. 31, Intrigue Hair Salon donated $5 from the proceeds of every highlighting service to breast cancer research. In addition, on Tuesday, Oct. 23, and Thursday, Oct. 25, Intrigue offered blowouts for $30, half of which went directly to Norma Pfriem. On those evenings, Intrigue offered clients wine and cheese.
Even if one did not know Casey, one does not have a hard time imagining the smile, the laugh and the spirit described countless times by those who were closest to her. While the devastating illness that took Casey too soon from her friends is never shied away from in conversation amongst hairstylists or customers, what shines forth in her memory is the positive effect she has had on so many lives, which is reflected in the loving and trusting vibe that resonates deeply to visitors of Intrigue.
Pease makes everyone who walks through the door of Intrigue, employees and customers alike, feel like a member of the family.
“Oh, my girls — I call them all that — my girls,” she said. “They’re like sisters, friends. I want this place to feel like you’re in your living room. We all get along. We support each other.”
That support for women in the salon goes way beyond doing great hair; it goes to creating a warm, welcoming environment where women can talk freely with one another about the issues that matter most.
“Casey was such a bright light. Casey had the biggest smile and her eyes — her eyes followed her smile. And it was always a hug,” Pease added. “She never lost her way. She worked three weeks before she died. She wanted to be here working.”
“Casey’s story reiterates how short life is,” said Jennifer Calnen, one of Casey’s good friends who works at the salon. “Casey had a remarkable love for life and that is how I am trying to live my life going forward. It’s only fair because I am still here and that is the one way I can honor her every day.”
And honor her, everyone does. If it weren’t for the fact that customers are seated and workers standing, one would not be able to differentiate between who is serving whom. An environment of support, trust and emotional safety is provided for all. This is the feeling the women in the salon have created and nurtured, which is appreciated by patients of the Norma Pfriem Breast Care Center, located at 111 Beach Road, the medical service for patients in and around the local community that works to support women and their families.
Katherine Sullivan, a 10-year volunteer, a member of the Norma Pfriem Breast Care Center’s President’s Council and a breast cancer survivor of nearly 15 years, said that many clients of Intrigue are breast cancer patients and survivors being treated by the Norma Pfriem Center.
Sullivan, who included her 12-year-old daughter in the fund-raising event, said the center works on raising funds and sharing with the community what the center has to offer
“We have a big initiative to get the message out about our services before people need us,” Sullivan said. “The center does everything under one roof — wig fitting, counseling, chemo, massage — everything but surgery.”
She discussed how important it is to raise awareness about breast cancer since the age of diagnosis keeps going down.
“Women keep getting younger and younger,” she said. “I think it’s a combination of three factors: environmental, genetics and lifestyle choices. It’s important to get the message out to younger girls. Cancers tend to be more aggressive in younger women. We need to take it seriously.”
Sullivan got involved because she remembers the terror of initial diagnosis and wants to help protect other women from that feeling.
“People need to know where to go and what’s available before the panic,” she said. “You don’t need to have insurance. It doesn’t matter. We don’t turn anyone away.”
So now there is no excuse for local women to not have a mammography. Walk through the door of the center and someone will be there to help you, to guide you, to give you support.
“Women are the glue that hold families together. We need to think about the next generation,” Sullivan said. “The terror that is often felt when you first are diagnosed; I definitely want to change that. Strip away the terror. I never want my daughter to go through what I did. Hopefully there will be a cure, but in the meantime if we can take away some of the terror associated with diagnosis, we’re moving in the right direction.”
Mary Ellen Hart, Casey’s best friend Jennifer’s mother, is another breast cancer survivor who attended a wine and cheese event. She tried to support Casey through all the doctors’ appointments.
“I felt so connected to her when I was able to help her — help her through hard-to-digest information you’re hearing. Tried to help her understand what was going on,” Hart recalled.
Hart sat draped in her black smock, glancing around at the nice-sized turnout for the fund-raiser.
“It can happen to anyone,” she said. “It happened to her. There’s nothing good about the big C. They’ve made great strides in fighting the disease, but it’s a dreadful disease and there’s still a lot to do. I can say I feel blessed Casey was in my life — she will always be in my heart.”
Jill Brenner, who knew Casey since high school and is the one who brought all the friends into the Intrigue family, blow-dried her friend Tiffany Goulette’s long blond hair as they chatted about Casey. Her greatest memory will always be Casey’s laugh and how positive she always was.
“She never felt sorry for herself,” Brenner said.
Goulette, Casey’s friend since they were girls, stressed how their friendship was never based on trivial things, but was about support. And all her friendships continue to be.
“Fairfield is like a bubble,” Goulette said. “One of the perks of knowing everyone in town — there’s always support.”
Pease joined the women with a warm smile.
“Carolyn has always been there. It’s comforting coming here. It’s family,” Goulette said.
Through the efforts of the family at Intrigue Hair Salon and the Norma Pfriem Breast Care Center, the legacy of Casey Chernes Paules will continue through raised awareness and continued support for the community of Fairfield and beyond.
Casey’s life reverberates in all who enter the warm space of Intrigue. The most important lesson her friends have learned?
“Cherish the ones you love and don’t sweat the small stuff,” Calnen said.
Information on Intrigue is available at 203-254-1015 or intriguehair.com.
Information about the Norma Pfriem Breast Care Center is available from the Fairfield location at 203-255-5300.