Program Helps Women with Cancer Look Good, Feel Better

While cancer may change a woman’s appearance, such as causing her to lose weight, or her hair, one thing she doesn’t have to lose is her self-confidence. White River Medical Center (WRMC) Cancer Care Center, the American Cancer Society, and local licensed cosmetologists team up quarterly to offer Look Good, Feel Better, a class where women with cancer learn how to maintain their appearance despite the side effects of treatment.

Held at the WRMC Cancer Care Center, the quarterly class provides participating women with a kit that includes make-up and skin care items, courtesy of a partnership between the American Cancer Society, Personal Care Products Council Association, and the National Cosmetology Association. The women are taught by local cosmetologists how to adjust to their change in appearance through basic makeup, hair, and skin techniques. They also receive a wig and refreshments from the WRMC Cancer Care Center—all free of charge.

“Look Good, Feel Better is as much about improving and maintaining self-image and confidence as it is about appearance,” says Lindsey Ferrell with the American Cancer Society. “Patients enjoy the opportunity to spend time in a relaxed, non-medical setting with others in the same situation. And the free make-up and instruction from professionals helps them look and feel better.”

An attendee of the Look Good, Feel Better class, Charlene Kealer is a 38 year old mother of three who was recently diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Prior to her diagnosis, she had experienced heavy coughing spells and pain in her arm, but she never suspected cancer. “It just slapped me in the face,” she said. “I had so many emotions; so many thoughts going through my mind.”

In the class, Kealer looked straight ahead as Licensed Cosmetologist, Bethany Sloan with Studio Salon in Batesville, applied her mascara. Although she shaved her head when she started losing her hair after treatment, Kealer had a flattering shoulder-length dark brown wig on her head, expertly applied make-up, and a smile across her face. She says the class was educational, but also helped take her mind off of her disease. “I learned a lot, but I also had a lot of fun,” she said. “It was a nice, positive experience I got to share with women just like me.”

Participant Janet Herndon shared that same thought. “Having cancer is very traumatic. This class was really great because it helped me see that I am not alone.” Jennifer Walls, another licensed cosmetologist with Studio Salon, finds great reward in volunteering her time at the class. “Many people think that cancer patients just lose the hair on their head when they start treatment, but they can actually lose all their hair, even their eyebrows,” she said. Cosmetologists, such as Walls and Sloan, teach women techniques such as where their eyebrows should go and how to make them look natural by drawing them in. “It feels great to help women get back what they thought cancer had taken away.”

The WRMC Cancer Care Center started hosting Look Good, Feel Better in 2007. The class is held four times a year and is for women of all ages who are battling cancer.

“It is extremely rewarding to be a part of an organization that truly cares for our patients as a whole. We share our lives with them and it brings great joy to see their spirits renewed,” said Jami Smotherman, Tumor Registrar at the WRMC Cancer Care Center. Women with cancer wishing to take part in the class can contact Jami Smotherman at (870) 262–6200.