Cancer Society programs lifts spirits

Mary Thomson had not worn eye makeup for a year. She had lost her eyebrows and her hair, and even her wig was frizzier than she would have liked.

“I’ve felt I’ve looked bad, and I wanted to look better and feel better,” Thomson said.

On Thursday night, Thomson, of Potomac, had the chance to do just that.

Along with three other women, Thomson attended the American Cancer Society’s Look Good … Feel Better, a program in which local cosmetologists volunteer to show women undergoing cancer treatment how to combat the appearance-related effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Hope Morley, an intern at the American Cancer Society, said the Illinois eastern region office holds these sessions once a month, and has helped 70 women over the past year.

The next session will be held on Aug. 10 at the American Cancer Society office, 2509 S. Neil St., Morley said.

“Cancer patients get down in their spirits,” Morley said. “This program is about being pampered, it’s about you, and looking good again.”

Thursday’s session was held at Country Cuts, 3701 E. Curtis Rd., with cosmetologist Lorri Boastick. Boastick said she heard about the program through another cosmetologist, and has been hosting about four sessions a year for the past five years.

“It’s always amazing,” Boastick said. “I love the transformations.”

Each woman receives a free makeup kit provided by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and the National Cosmetology Association. All of the makeup is donated, and ranges from brands like Cover Girl and Estee Lauder to Mary Kay and Chanel. Morley said although the program is free, the women must register beforehand so that enough makeup kits are available, and so the right kit can be provided for their skin tone.

“We try to keep the sessions small so that they can have individualized attention,” Morley said.

Boastick showed the women how to apply concealer, blush, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara and lipstick. She demonstrated the techniques on one side of each woman’s face, and then let them apply the other side on their own, encouraging them as they went.

Ann Harmon, of Champaign, said she had lost her eyebrows, so the tips she found most helpful were how to use makeup and eyebrow pencils to create natural-looking eyebrows that didn’t look drawn on.

Theresa Ritchie, of Westville, said she was in the first round of treatment, and had not yet lost all of her hair or eyebrows. She said she was told that her hair would be gone by the end of July, but she did not know about losing her eyebrows too.

“They go as fast as the hair,” Harmon told Ritchie.

This chance to meet and talk with other women who are going through the same situation was another aspect of the program the women said was beneficial.

“It’s good to get with other people that have the same problems,” Thomson said. “You do learn things.”

The women discussed the changes that have come about because of their treatment.

Melodie Ounkham, of Urbana, said she has noticed a change in her complexion, particularly more noticeable dark circles under her eyes. She said the techniques she learned at Look Good … Feel Better helped her hide the circles, and bring out her positivity.

“It brings up your self-esteem,” Ounkham said. “It just makes you feel better all around.”