KENTVILLE - The journey to wellness after a cancer diagnosis is a difficult one, often fraught with challenging side effects.
Many women find hair loss and other changes in their appearance to be particularly difficult because, unlike their treatment, these are something they carry with them everywhere they go.
Look Good Feel Better is a free workshop designed to help them address these changes and to help restore their confidence.
“We're here to help these women feel better emotionally by keeping it light and friendly, and by helping them to look healthy,” says program manager Gail Jones.
Something as simple as putting on a favourite lipstick can turn around a glum day, she says, and that that confidence boost can make a big difference in a cancer patient.
“Their skin changes, their nails become brittle, and they can lose their hair and their eyelashes,” she says. “This can be really hard, for women in particular, because they don't look or feel like themselves any more.”
The two-hour workshop starts with the basics, with the patient's new immune system in mind, and teaches the importance of cosmetic hygiene before moving on to moisturizers, makeup application and hair alternatives. Each participant is given a kit filled with products that they'll recognize, donated by companies like Mary Kay, Cover Girl or Mac. The volunteers who facilitate the workshop have all worked in the cosmetic or hair industries for a minimum of two years and have an abundance of tips and tricks. There's also a wig specialist on hand to talk about how to style and care for a wig, or how to wear a scarf in a fun and stylish way.
“Everything in the kits is donated, and they're done up in a really cute, bright pink cosmetic bag. There's a group that also donates hats and scarves to the hospital, so participants also leave with one or two of those, too,” says Jones.
Whether a woman has worn makeup every day for the last 30 years, or has never worn it a day in her life, Jones says there's something for everyone at the workshop.
“You might have a tip or technique or a product that you really love,” she says. “We love it when participants can share advice, or just offer support.”
While they don't often get a great deal of feedback besides the big smiles from participants as they leave, or participants happily removing their scarves half way through the workshop, they love hearing success stories.
“We had one young woman send us a letter to say that her time at the workshop was the first time she didn't feel alone.”
Starting on Jan. 9, and continuing on the second Saturday of every other month, women of all ages and all stages of treatment are invited to participate.
“If I could tell them one thing,” says Jones, “it would be to come. Come out and have fun, and then leaving looking good and feeling confident.”
Jones says that participants range from teens to seniors, and that they are at all stages of treatment. Some, she says, have only just received their diagnosis, while others are nearing the end.
“Anyone who wants to come is welcome,” she says. “We may not fit them in right away, but we always find room somewhere.”
Anyone who is interested in the program is welcome to contact Cathie Pothier in the oncology ward at Valley Regional Hospital, or can visit www.lgfb.ca for more information on the program.
Fast facts about Look Good Feel Better
• The workshop started in 1992 by member companies of the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association as a means for the industry to give back to the community.
• There are 120 facilities across Canada that offer Look Good Feel Better workshops.
• The kits provided free of charge to participants contains approximately $400 of product that they get to use and take home.