Look Good Feel Better, a national series of free beauty sessions for cancer patients that Garden City’s St. Catherine Hospital has frequently hosted, will face changes next year as the American Cancer Society transitions out of the program.

The sessions give cancer patients the skills and materials to take back control of their appearance as they undergo treatment. Volunteers give patients high quality makeup and offer lessons on skin and nail care, cosmetics, wigs, turbans and accessories, according to a press release from St. Catherine.

The hospital has hosted the program since the fall of 2014, said Shawna Deal, St. Catherine’s community relations coordinator.

Currently, the program is a collaboration of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the Professional Beauty Association and the American Cancer Society. At the end of 2018, however, the American Cancer Society will transition out of the program, according to a letter from the Look Good Feel Better Foundation to its volunteers.

The society is leaving the program in order to better support other programs, like transportation and lodging, that give patients access to high-quality cancer treatment, according to the letter. There was evidence that patients receive treatment too late or do not complete it, which can severely affect their health, and the society’s resources would be channelled into improving those situations, the letter states.

The American Cancer Society has been “the heavy lifters on the volunteer and programming side,” said Amy Haynes, the society's director of communications. It works with hospitals to implement the program and is in charge of finding trained cosmetologists to run the sessions. Haynes also said that the Look Good Feel Better program was never the society’s program and that it would move forward without their support.

St. Catherine will host the program five times before the end of 2018, Deal said. The year’s first session was on April 16, which two women attended. One of them was Mary Chappel, 76, a Garden City breast cancer patient who is about to begin treatment.

Chappel said her type of chemotherapy would make her lose her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes quickly, and she attended Look Good Feel Better to maintain her normal look in spite of the changes. Volunteers helped Chappel choose a wig, and a local cosmetologist showed her and the other patient how to use makeup, including tricks that made it look like patients still had eyebrows and eyelashes, she said.

“(They) answer any of our questions that we might have. They’re just overall helpful ... I’m glad that we have somebody of that caliber here in Garden City,” Chappel said.

As they looked at wigs and followed the makeup tutorials, Chappel and her fellow attendee spoke about their situations. Chappel said she has not begun chemotherapy yet, but the other woman was three months in and told Chappel what she could expect.

“I think we need that beauty sometimes, for people to say ‘Oh, you look great today. We would never know you had cancer if we didn’t know it.’ I think that Look Good Feel (Better) is a very important factor in this treatment plan,” Chappel said.

Look Good Feel Better’s sessions will continue as normal through the end of 2018, said Lisa Burris, the program’s director. This year is a transition year, she said, and what the program will look like from the beginning of 2019 onward is still being decided. As their letter states, they are working “to establish a new delivery model that will carry the program forward.”

As for what that model may be and what changes the program may take in its stride, Burris said, it’s too early to know.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.