Look Good Feel Better provides a new outlook for cancer patients

The physical repercussions of cancer are no match for the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) and the Professional Beauty Association’s (PBA) program, Look Good Feel Better. 

Developed in 1989, Look Good Feel Better has found success providing men, women and teenagers with ways to cope with the physical changes the body endures during cancer. The free program also provides beauty tips that are specifically applicable to cancer patients. While not using any medical remedies, the program utilizes beauty products on a strictly donation basis. The latest session was held Monday night at the Mills Breast Cancer Institute in Urbana.

Each session allows a maximum of 14 people to participate in order for patients to receive more hands-on help and greater amounts of attention due to the amount of work that goes into creating the workshops. Look Good Feel better is a nationwide organization with 105 venues in Illinois and over 50 sessions per month. Additionally, there are four workshops in the Champaign area at Christie Clinic, Iroquois Memorial Hospital in Watseka and Carle Foundation Hospital. Each workshop is catered to a specific group, such as men, teenagers or women. 

“We first conduct needs assessments for patients in certain areas,” said Sarah Little, Look Good Feel Better’s specialist in mission delivery. “We look at the needs greatest in the community so we may implement programs that are convenient.” 

The American Cancer Society, along with doctors, nurses and social workers, take the time to ensure that each program is catered specifically to the patients’ in each facility, as well as times, dates, program sizes and volunteers that are coordinated. The volunteers who facilitate the workshops must possess a cosmetology license for the state they are working in and complete a four-hour training session. 

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The National Cosmetology Association, as well as word-of-mouth and promotional sessions, attracts cosmetologists to assist in the program, according to Little. She said there are an average of eight to 10 women quarterly who apply for the position. 

Though there are various groups the program caters to, women are often the most involved in the program. 

“Thousands of women will be diagnosed with cancer this year, many of whom will face not only the physical effects of the disease but also tackle the psychological and emotional aftermath of treatment,” said Susan Thomas, Chicago director of media relations for the program. 

To qualify to participate for the free workshop, a woman must be diagnosed and in an intensive form of treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation. Upon joining, she will receive a skin-care kit specific to her skin tone that she may take home and go through. The kits are valued at approximately $300 and are collected on a donation basis.

The sessions run for two hours and cover a 12-step process including skin care, cleansing, applying makeup, working with head wraps or wigs, nail care and clothing choices to flatter skin tones and body shapes. 

Look Good Feel Better partnered with Stacy London to create a DVD where the “What Not To Wear” star demonstrated how certain clothing fits for different women. The number one program for women, according to Little, is the eyebrow drawing one because a majority of women lose their hair including their eyebrows, during intense treatment. 

Look Good Feel Better gives these women the techniques to deal with the situation physically; however, it goes beneath the surface as well. 

“These sessions help improve their morale and give women with all forms of cancer back some control, confidence and hope they need during a very difficult time,” Thomas said. 

Little said she takes pride knowing that the women can walk away feeling beautiful and supported. In 2013, there were 2,335 women who benefited from the Look Good Feel Better program. 

“It changes lives, and I’ve seen it happen,” she said.

The ‘Feel Better’ aspect of the program is what is ultimately most important, according to Little. 

“Cancer treatment is not easy and it has some pretty nasty side effects,” she said. “If we can brighten women’s outlooks on the day or life or treatment, then it’s successful.” 

Rachel can be reached at [email protected].