Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
Putting a face on cancer
Survivors learn tips on looking, feeling well
By Shelley Grieshop
Two cancer survivors and a friend receive tips from volunteer cosmetologist Ther. . .
Eyeliner, blush and lip-gloss are fun to talk about.
Radiation burns and hair loss are not.
On Monday night, six area women found a way to mix the topics, learn a little about make-up and share their journey with cancer.
"Now's the time to have fun," said Theresia Hedrick, one of two licensed cosmetologists who offered tips to participants of the first-ever "Look Good, Feel Better" session at the Grand Lake Regional Cancer Center in Celina.
Hedrick and another volunteer cosmetologist, Barb Thompson, guided the group as they experimented with dozens of bottles, tubes and other containers of cosmetics that were distributed free of charge.
The items were valued at approximately $300 and were presented to the women in cherry red tote bags. The cost of the cosmetics and the program is shared by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the National Cosmetology Association.
Fundraising activities such as the annual ACS-sponsored Relay for Life, help fund "Look Good, Feel Better."
The workshop, offered around the globe, is aimed at helping women deal with appearance-related side effects from cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy and radiation. Mary Beth Torsell of St. Marys - the local ACS representative - led the session by supplying the women with phone numbers for various support networks.
"Don't hesitate to call for anything, anytime," she added.
Kelly Wendel's shoulder-length wig laid near the leg of her chair as she chatted with Shirley Dammeyer of St. Marys. Both women recently underwent chemotherapy treatments and proudly ran their fingers through the new locks of hair that have returned.
"Before I lost my hair, there was so much anxiety," Dammeyer said. "That was worse than when it fell out."
Wendel, 43, of the Chattanooga area, described how dabbing a little make-up on her face helped boost her spirits on days when nothing else did.
"I probably didn't look better but I felt better," she said with a laugh.
Wendel said she's found strength each day by trying to maintain her normal routine, whether she felt like it or not. She praised the efforts of Torsell and her team for offering her an evening to share her thoughts, her fears, her hopes.
"This is wonderful; better than I expected," she said. "It's good to know you're not alone. There's been times when I didn't feel anybody really understood."
Wendel is currently receiving radiation treatments for a second bout with breast cancer. She also has undergone treatment for cervical cancer, she said.
"I had them all 10 years apart," she added, as she carefully began applying jet-black mascara to her lower lashes.
Bev Wolke of Van Wert spoke of her current radiation treatment, which followed two surgeries in December for breast cancer. She came to the session for the free make-up, she admitted, but also sought something more.
"I haven't met anyone yet who is going through the same thing as me. I'm not in any support groups or anything like that so I thought this would be a good idea," she said.
The instructors shared a variety of tips to help the women adjust to the changing needs of their bodies. The conversation ran the gamut from which lotions are best for dry skin, tips on drawing eyebrows (many women lose those, too, during chemotherapy) and how to stay healthy with a weakened immune system.
"Don't wax your eyebrows," Hedrick warned. "That opens up your pores to infection.
She also advised against shaving underarms for the same reason. The women joked about the type of equipment they'd need later to remove the hair after a few month's growth.
Local hairstylist Pam Pugh introduced herself as a "wig facilitator" for the program and offered to meet with the women, one on one, for consultation.
"Not everyone chooses to wear wigs when they have cancer," Pugh said in an understanding tone.
She explained that all styles and colors in her "wig bank" are free to cancer patients. She encouraged the women to experiment with a different hair color; their own hair likely will return in a different hue anyway, she added.
"If you've always wondered what it would be like to be a blonde, do it," Pugh said. "Have fun with it."
Pugh also advised women how to care for their wigs and what to do if they don't fit properly.
Torsell concluded by reminding the group how important it is to stay well physically and mentally.
"You don't have to look ravaged," she said. "Take care of yourself. You're important."
"Look Good, Feel Better" - an international program for women impacted by cancer - is being offered at no charge in the Grand Lake area through December. The workshop gives women information and guidance on such issues as make-up, wigs, scarves, skin and nail care.
Each woman will receive a free make-up kit valued at $300 to use during and after the workshop.
Sessions will be held in Mercer County at the Grand Lake Regional Cancer Center, Celina, 6-8 p.m. on the following dates:
• April 12, June 14, Aug. 9, Oct. 11 and Dec. 13
Sessions are slated in Auglaize County at Zion Lutheran Church, St. Marys, 6-8 p.m. on:
• March 8, May 10, July 12, Sept. 13 and Nov. 8
Registration is required. Please call 888-227-6446 at least five days in advance.
- Shelley Grieshop