Spring 2014 Newsletter: Looking Good, Feeling Better
When Marguerite Penning found out that she had cancer, she was determined to take advantage of all of the services that the Cancer Center had available to her. “I was so excited that there were things like Look Good…Feel Better!”
The goal of the program is to help women feel better about their appearance and more in control of the physical changes caused by cancer treatment. Look Good…Feel Better is a collaboration between the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the Professional Beauty Association, and the National Cosmetology Association.
During this workshop, held the first Monday of each month at the Cancer Center, volunteer cosmetologists Diana Heeney and Lori Conway help women reach that ultimate goal: to look good, and feel better during and after cancer treatment.
“We go through some skin care tips, we go through some tips on moisturizing, and show them how to make a turban out of a t-shirt,” Heeney said. (See the end of this story for a video tutorial!)
Another part of the workshop includes step-by-step instructions for applying make-up. Each participant is given a free kit of cosmetic and skin care products coordinated to their skin type, which they get to keep. These products are donated by the cosmetic industry under the leadership of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation.
For Penning, who came to the class with little knowledge about make-up, the things she learned had a drastic effect on her life.
“When you’re going out with your husband, or going to church, and you look tired and pale, putting on the make-up brightens you up. It makes a big difference. It’s nice to hear people say, ‘Oh, you look good!’ instead of ‘Oh, you look tired.’”
Marilyn Kelly, another participant of the program, agreed that make-up is about more than looking good physically.
“It just keeps that positive attitude going,” Kelly said. “Diana made me look so good, people didn’t realize how sick I really was!”
Heeney, who started the program in Sioux City when her sister was diagnosed with cancer, understands why the program is so important.
“People just want to feel normal. When you have cancer, and your eyebrows are gone, and your lashes are gone, and maybe you lost your hair, and you think everyone knows you have a wig on, you just want to look normal.
And that is honestly the best part of this program.”
It can be difficult for some women to imagine how looking good will make them feel better.
“I’ve heard a lot of women come in and say, ‘When I got diagnosed and went through chemo, I didn’t want to put make-up on,’” Conway shared. “Because they were tired and didn’t feel good. But once they go through all of the steps, they look at themselves and see that they look and feel better.”
In addition to the tips and tricks that women can learn from the workshop, there is another benefit that, according to Heeney, is the real reason for its success.
“This class is so successful because of the camaraderie that happens in the room when these women get together. They’re all going through the same thing and they’re all asking each other questions. It makes them a lot more comfortable with what they’re dealing with.”
The friendships that develop during the workshop can endure much longer than the class itself.
“I was in with two other women, and sometimes we were here at the Cancer Center at the same time,” Kelly said. “So we could catch up with each other as to where we were in our treatments. It was like another support system.”
At this point, Kelly and Penning, who are good friends, turned to one another and said they were part of each other’s support system. After a moment of hugging, Penning coined a new catchphrase with a joyful exclamation: “Support Sisters!”
For both Heeney and Conway, this is their favorite part about being involved with the program.
“When they walk in, they don’t know what to expect and they’re a little nervous,” according to Conway. “But when they leave, and they’ve made friends, that’s what makes me happy.”
Heeney admits that the program is a big commitment, but moments like these are worth it. “When you leave, you have a warm feeling in your heart that women got together and they feel more comfortable about what’s going on with themselves.”
As a participant on the receiving end of this program, Penning sums up the experience perfectly. “It felt like Christmas!”