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Look Good…Feel Better – A Program to Help Women With Cancer

One of my very first outings after beginning chemotherapy was attending a Look Good…Feel Better class. That stifling hot August day this past summer was also the first time I stepped out in public wearing my newly purchased wig. Leaving the safety of my house that day I felt alone, self-conscious, vulnerable and totally skeptical. “Look Good… Feel Better,” I said to myself, “are you kidding me? Impossible.” I wasn’t even sure why I had signed up.

Before attending my scheduled class that day, I also made my first trip to the mall. I walked around mindlessly shopping feeling as if I was dressed up in a disguise. I wondered if anyone would recognize me should I run into someone I knew. How could they? I didn’t even recognize myself when I walked past a store’s mirror. The only reason I had convinced myself go in the first place was because I needed something to wear to my niece’s upcoming wedding.

After finishing up my shopping that afternoon as quickly as possible, I headed over to one of the local hospitals to attend my class. I walked into the designated “cancer room” trying to appear confident, signed in, picked out as inconspicuous a spot as I could find and sat down feeling like I shouldn’t be there. I immediately scanned the room observing the other women already seated and noticed cancer embraces women of all colors, ages, shapes and backgrounds. Cancer is the great nondiscriminator. 

Some women were older, some much younger and others appeared to be similar to my age, but all of us had cancer of various types and stages and all of us were undergoing treatment of some kind or another. Some women wore hats or scarves, others wore wigs and some had yet to lose their hair. Four cosmetologists were leading the class, two of them cancer survivors themselves. Again, cancer embraces all women.

“You might want to remove your wig if you’re wearing one,” were the first words spoken by one of the leaders, a perky blond breast cancer survivor, as class began to get under way.

Panic immediately set in. “No way am I going to remove my wig in front of all these people,” I said to myself feeling defiant and ready to walk out the door if pushed to do so. Clearly, I was lacking in the confidence department.

However, I needn’t have worried because as it turned out luckily, or not so luckily, my skin is very sensitive and I was already breaking out from the cleanser we were instructed to use to remove any makeup we came to class wearing.

“Oh my, you better just observe and wait until you get home to try the products,” the blond cosmetologist said sympathetically after taking another look at my face. I was rescued by my red blotchy skin.

The Look Good…Feel Better program was started in 1989. It is a collaboration of The Personal Care Products Council Foundation, The American Cancer Society and the Professional Beauty Association/National Cosmetology Association. Its mission is “to improve the self-esteem and quality of life of people undergoing treatment for cancer.” Its founders and supporters believe cancer takes much, but it shouldn’t get to take self-confidence too.

How can you not love that concept?

A Look Good…Feel Better class teaches beauty techniques and tricks through “hands-on” demonstration and instruction. Over 700,000 women have taken the class in 3,000 locations across the country. The Personal Care Products Council Foundation provides the financial backing and donates all makeup. The PBA/NCA promotes, trains and recruits volunteers and the ACS acts as the primary resource for getting the word out to cancer patients about classes.

That August afternoon we watched a video featuring real cancer patients getting makeovers. Then the volunteers patiently took us step by step through the process of properly applying makeup and showed us things like how to enhance thinning eye lashes and non-existent brows. They cheerfully walked around giving individual attention and answering questions. Each woman received a pink bag full of generously donated makeup items, full-sized items, not sample sizes. There was a lot of experimenting, sharing and laughter in that room; things not experienced as often when you have cancer.

For those two hours or so, I was just a woman among other women trying to adapt to cancer. In that room we were all the same. We were all accepted. We were all beautiful.

Sitting there going through my bag felt a little like Christmas. I mean, who doesn’t love free stuff? And this was good free stuff. My bag contained numerous cleansers, moisturizers and lotions, mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, gloss, blush, foundation, powder, eye liner and brow pencils. There were even multiples of some of these products.

Walking out of class into the blistering hot sun that recent summer day, I clutched my bag full of donated beauty products and realized I did look good, or at least better. I did feel better and more confident. I walked through the parking lot on the way back to my car no longer the skeptic, but grateful for programs like Look Good…Feel Better. Thank you.

You can find more information about Look Good…Feel Better classes in your area at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org. Or call your local American Cancer Society. I highly recommend it.

Have you participated in a Look Good…Feel Better class, or do you know someone who has? Or what’s a class (any kind) that you really benefited from?

20 thoughts on “Look Good…Feel Better – A Program to Help Women With Cancer

  1. Nancy,
    I’m so glad you’re leaving such great messages for Chez. She needs us.

    Hope today finds you feeling well. I just arrived for a women’s cancer retreat in Austin, TX. Beautiful setting on the lake & my room has a wonderful view.

    XOXOXO,
    Brenda

    1. Brenda, I’m happy to leave messages for Chez, she seems like a lovely person who has had to deal with so much. I think she does find comfort in her blogging friends. Hope you have a great four days there in TX. Can’t wait to hear what you learn! Enjoy your view too! Thanks for continuing to read my blog and for your message. (I’m feeling pretty good – another doctor appt tomorrow, surgery next month)

  2. I haven’t participating in anything like this; but I think it’s a wonderful idea! I didn’t realize, until I read your blog, that there are so many resources for cancer patients that doesn’t directly relate to cancer treatment. It’s wonderful that communities can have holistic events like this that focus on every aspect of the life-changing events that causes.

    1. Hi Amanda, It’s so nice of you to keep coming back! I love getting your comments too. Yes, I agree it’s wonderful when communities and volunteers get involved. Any baby news yet??

    2. This baby would be my 3rd niece/nephew, my sister who is expecting has a 2 year old boy, and my other sister has an 18 month old boy. After having 3 girls Grandpa (my dad) is happy to have boys and they both just adore him! It’s cute 🙂 Still no news on the expected baby yet!

      1. Amanda, Yes, I bet Grandpa is enjoying those lively little boys! Well, keep me posted on the new arrival. Do they live close by so you can see them often? Have a nice Thanksgiving! Like always, thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Nancy, I know of the program, but since I didn’t have chemo I didn’t need their services, (not saying I looked good) but I’m so glad it exists for women that are in need.

    I’m not much of a joiner, but I went to a support group for women with cancer and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the company of the other women. It was nice to be able to share with women that understood, who had their own stories. It was helpful to me to just listen. I would recommend it to anyone feeling alone or lost while dealing with cancer. We’re not alone.

    Thanks for sharing your experience there.

    1. Stacey, I’m not much of a joiner either, but I’m thinking I might look for a support group at this later stage. I think I might get more out of going to one now than earlier, I’m not exactly sure why. I’m glad you didn’t need chemo! Thanks for continuing to be such a faithful reader and commenter, Stacey.

  4. ooh what a great bag of goodies. I too participated in the Look Good Feel Good class put on by local cancer support center here in Ireland and I loved the feeling of being made to feel pampered and special in a very feminine way.

    1. Marie, So glad to see you back! Thanks for your comments. Hope you had a good trip to San Diego. I didn’t realize the Look Good Feel Better program was international. I think that’s great. I would recommend it to others for sure.

    1. Look Good…Feel Better, Thank you for your comments and for posting a link to my blog on your facebook and twitter pages today. I really appreciate it, but even more importantly, I really appreciate your great program! Thank you!

  5. I unfortunately did not have a good experience at a Look Good Feel Good Class. I did get some really NICE products and very appreciative of them. However, My issue with it was I am younger scale of Breast Cancer Women. First off tried to have my Mom (who came with me) sit at the Tables and showed me where “visitors” could sit once we got that cleared up. I realized that all the other women were at least 20-30+ years older than me. 2nd the wigs they “had to experiment with were for older ladies.

    I realize that most women that have breast cancer are older, however since I’ve be diagnosed I am finding out that they are becoming younger and younger. I just think that they may need to take that in consideration.

    But I did enjoy the make up.

    1. Dragon two six, It’s understandable your experience wasn’t the greatest. It’s funny, even I feel young sometimes at my meetings and stuff… Sadly, though, there are many young women like yourself with breast cancer too. Their unique needs must be addressed. I would say, if you ever feel that isn’t happening, you should speak up about it. I know speaking up is sometimes hard to do, but… Glad you liked the make up products. I did too, but who knows how many are carcinogenic? We can’t win can we? Thanks so much for sharing. Hope you are doing well.

  6. I was diagnosed at the age of 43 with breast cancer- now 5 years ago and still clean! Praise be to God! I participated in one of the classes- Look Good Feel Better, and I loved it!! There were gals of all ages, all of us hairless-or almost hairless. We had a wonderful afternoon of fun and fellowship! I appreciate everything that we received in the goodie bags! I would recommend it to anyone!

    1. Julie, I enjoyed my experience too. Glad you had a good one as well. Thanks for reading and taking time comment about it. My best to you.

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