Published on March 5, 2021
Organizations Dedicated to Self-Care for Patients
The new year evokes feelings of renewal for many people. For patients with cancer, that can mean learning new ways to stay healthy and feel good. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy may have altered one’s appearance, which can be jarring for those who have lost their normalcy.
Volunteer organizations like Look Good Feel Better help people learn new self-care routines, which can include lessons on skin and nail care, makeup, wigs, headscarves, accessories and overall styling. They can also help patients rock the bald look if that’s what the patient prefers. The organization is set on helping with whatever makes each person feel more comfortable about their overall appearance.
Chemotherapy Side Effects Include Hair Loss
Since 1989, Look Good Feel Better has hosted workshops for patients to come together and learn new ways to get ready for the outside world.
Losing your hair can be a shock to the system, and some patients lose more than that.
During treatment, breast cancer survivor Gina Olivo cut her hair into a bob before it started to fall out. When it did start falling out, it was timely because she was surrounded by supportive women who very much understood her situation.
“Ironically, most of my hair loss happened while I was working on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day event,” Gina said. “I was able to wear a hat all weekend, but I remember thinking, ‘There is no better place to be than surrounded by fellow survivors.’”
Gina was already comfortable with make-up techniques when her appearance changed after a breast cancer diagnosis at age 37, but some folks are looking for a few tips to add to their routine.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
“There is no way to prepare yourself for your appearance changing so quickly, though I did try!” Gina said. “I remember feeling sad, longing for ‘normalcy,’ but I also knew deep down, this was a small price to pay if I could be healthy again,” she added.
Cancer survivor Suzanne Cormier appreciates the experts who helped her learn new techniques for applying makeup to recreate the look she was used to seeing in the mirror.1
“I was completely bald, and I had no eyebrows, and no eyelashes,” Suzanne said. “Having someone teach in such a compassionate and understanding way, took away the fear that I had, and it was also really beautiful because we felt a sense of camaraderie,” she said of the women in her workshop.
When Maria Davalos was diagnosed with breast cancer, she felt isolated when her hair and skin started to change.
“I wanted to take that control back so I thought that this would be a good program to help me feel more like myself,” Maria said.
“It [the workshop] made me feel more courageous to face my battles,” said breast cancer survivor Mary Bosch who was diagnosed at age 71.
Look Good Feel Better does not provide wigs, but the American Cancer Society (ACS) does. Wigs can be expensive, and many ACS offices distribute free wigs to those who need them. Call 800-ACS-2345 to see if an office near you participates in the free wig program.2 It can be tricky to pick out a wig online; if you can find a place like a wig shop to try one on in person, that might help you find the one that best suits your style—or even find a brand-new look!
Empowerment and Appreciation of Life
Make-up artist Rudy Miles says he gets more out of the volunteer program he runs than what he puts in.
“It’s an affirmation of life. You see women come in and feeling a certain way and there’s something that happens in the two hours, that connection with paint, powder, moisturizer and lip gloss that transforms these women,” Rudy said. “In that room, it’s much more than makeup.”
Look Good Feel Better focuses primarily on women, but men have specific needs when going through cancer treatment, too. Men can also experience changes to their nails, skin and hair, and knowing how to care for one’s face and body is an important part of healing.
Colon cancer survivor and fashion designer Carmen Marc Valvo got involved in the Look Good Feel Better program as an advocate after facing his disease.
“The Look Good Feel Better Program is more than makeup. It’s about empowerment and an appreciation of life,” he said. “I know first-hand that you don’t want to be defined by your disease. You want to be defined as who you are as a person.”
The fashion industry has been helpful as a platform for patient advocates like Carmen to raise awareness about detection and raising funds for new treatments.
Styling Guides, Beauty Services and Events
One thing that isn’t going to change immediately in 2021 is restrictions on in-person gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, Look Good Feel Better has programs online that patients and their care partners can view from the comfort of their own homes. Step-by-step makeup tutorials on hair, nails and styling tips can help patients put together an outfit for their next online meeting, family dinner or telehealth appointment.
There are numerous services and events available to help you feel and look your best, including an online-only wellness conference coming this spring.3-7 Programs like these are giving patients a sense of control back into their lives. When you look good, you feel better.
Was this article helpful? Please share across social media. Looking for more information? Sign up for e-newsletters.
1Look Good Feel Better. Patient Testimonials.
2American Cancer Society. Choosing and Wearing a Wig.
4Sephora. Classes for Confidence.
5Warrior Wellness Virtual Conference. Spring 2021.
6Breast Friends. Request a Hat.
7Ana Ono. Post-Mastectomy Fashion.
Recommended for You: