Wednesday was a typical girls’ night, complete with new friends, makeovers and hair tutorials.
Except instead of swapping stories about boys, these women were gossiping about doctor’s visits and chemotherapy. The Look Good, Feel Better program is a free event offered by the American Cancer Society every other month at Bothwell Regional Health Center, inviting women to learn about makeup and hair tips from a professional cosmetologist.
“People know how much cancer treatments affect the body, but I think some people tend to forget just how much it can change your appearance,” said retired cosmetologist Kelly Asbury, who led Wednesday’s program. “A lot of times in chemo you lose your hair, and that means all your hair - your eyelashes and eyebrows included. It’s very hard to be a woman putting on makeup and suddenly you have to learn how to draw an eyebrow.”
According to the American Cancer Society, the Look Good, Feel Better program started in 1987 when a physician organized a makeover for a woman in cancer treatment who was depressed and self-conscious about the changes in her appearance. Today more than 50,000 women in all 50 states take advantage of the free program, which is funded by the Personal Care Products Council, American Cancer Society and the Professional Beauty Association/National Cosmetology Association.
Drawing eyebrows were just one of the lessons Wednesday. Absury told the seven women gathered everything from the importance of moisturizer, to why old makeup can harbor bacteria to how to combat dark circles and spots that can sometimes accompany cancer treatments.
“They don’t tell you cancer changes things like your fingernails, I used to have beautiful nails all my life, but not anymore,” said Jean Davidson, who has Stage 4 lung cancer. “I will say, the plus side to having cancer is everyone tells you all the time how good you look.”
“That’s so true,” said Lynn Madsen, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in September, with a laugh.
Laughter and joking about cancer and hair loss was the theme of the night Wednesday as the ladies tested out each of the several new beauty products given to them. In between trying new eye shadow and learning the secret to creating eyebrows — it involves drawing three dots where the natural eyebrow line is then connecting them — the women traded information about when they’d been diagnosed, what doctor they were seeing and how often they received chemotherapy.
“One of the nice things about tonight is, you can tell your husband or your friends what’s happening, but they don’t really understand,” said breast cancer patient Brenda Sullentrop. “It was really fun to have that interaction with women who do know exactly what you’re going through.”
“Part of what makes Look Good, Feel Better wonderful, besides giving these women a makeover, is the interaction they get,” Asbury said. “For one night, they just get to come out and have fun. This is my fifth year volunteering for this and it’s honestly one of the best things I’ve done. I take something with me after every session. They walk out of here looking good and I walk out of here feeling very humbled.”
By the end of the two-hour session, Madsen was trying on Sullentrop’s wig to see if the color suited her and jokes about hair loss and hot flashes were flying across the table.
“Two years ago my friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and she went to a Look Good, Feel Better night,” Sullentrop said. “When I was diagnosed she told me ‘do not miss it.’ I’m glad I came, this has been a blast.”
To learn more about the Look Good, Feel Better program, call 573-635-4839 or 1-800-635-9194 or go to lookgoodfeelbetter.org.