Lifting the spirits of women facing cancer

A woman facing the trauma of cancer and the often harsh effects of chemo and radiation therapy already has a lot on her mind. Particularly devastating for many women is the loss of their eyebrows and hair, and the subsequent alteration in their appearances. 

Look Good Feel Better is devoted to helping women combat the toll cancer can take by helping them to learn how to maximize their looks as they heal. 

“If you don’t feel good, it’s harder to heal,” said Joanne Notman, who has been a volunteer with Look Good Feel Better workshops for seven years. “Women, especially cancer victims, need the morale boost of looking their best.”

The two hour work shops are designed to work with women, one on one, so they can learn tricks about how to minimize hair loss, puffiness, dry skin, and how to cope with nail issues, all of them by-products of cancer treatments. The workshops give women a chance to share and relax, to try on wigs and experiment with make up secure in a private and supportive atmosphere.

“When I attend a workshop,” Notman explained, “I find the participants are always amazed at the quality and quantity of the goods they receive for free. Each work shop has a team leader (Notman is a leader) and a group of cosmetic advisors. These advisors are all volunteers and are all in the cosmetic business.”

“There are three aspects to each workshop,” Notman explained. “Makeup and skin care, nail care and the hair portion. We also talk with women about what to expect as they undergo treatments so that the changes they face are easier to bear.”

The Look Good Feel Better movement began in the United States about 20 years ago, when an oncology nurse witnessed women, devastated by the changes in their appearances, essentially “dropped” once their medical treatments were finished. The idea of workshops to help them cope took hold.

In Canada, the program is sponsored by the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. 

Each participant in a workshop receives a complimentary kit of products donated by this group, all of them designed for traumatized skin. 

“There is even a workshop held at CHEO,” Joanne explained, “for teenage girls who are undergoing treatments.  The teenagers, we’ve found, are less concerned with the whole background program. They just want to get into the makeup,” Joanne laughed, “but then what girl doesn’t?” 

There are already workshops held in Ottawa and Kingston. And now Winchester District Memorial Hospital also holds a free workshop bi-monthly.

The free workshops at WDMH are held every other month, with the next one scheduled for Wednesday, September 26, in the afternoon. Women of any age can register, whether they are currently undergoing treatment, or will be starting therapy. The number is 613-774-2420, extension 6792.

Joanne Notman believes that the Look Good Feel Better program  is of great value to women facing the trials of cancer.  

“If we can make a woman (and her family too) feel happier and more confident, then it’s all worth it. I call Look Good Feel Better my charity of choice. I love it.”

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