Helping cancer patients feel beautiful

Louanne Roark, executive director of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, which runs Look Good Feel Better in partnership with the American Cancer Society.
Photo courtesy of Personal Care Products Council Foundation

One national organization is lifting cancer patients spirits through their outward appearances.

Look Good Feel Better offers free workshops with beauty professionals to women undergoing cancer treatment.

The organization started about 25 years ago because one doctor wanted to help one patient who wouldn’t leave her hospital room because of her appearance after cancer treatment, said Louanne Roark, executive director, of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, which runs Look Good Feel Better and in collaboration with the American Cancer Society and the Professional Beauty Association.

“The appearance changes women undergo while coping with cancer treatment are far more than skin deep,” said Roark. “They can impact a woman’s self-esteem and rob her of the courage and confidence she needs to face one of the toughest battles of her life.”

At the workshops, volunteer beauty professionals show women how to how to apply cosmetics and accessories in a way that help address the changes in skin and hair loss that often accompany cancer treatment, as well as share tips on dressing to help mask weight changes and surgical alterations, said Roark. For example, the workshops teach women how to draw on eyebrows they might be missing due to chemotherapy, or how to properly wear a wig so it looks like natural hair.

All participants receive a free bag of cosmetics and skin care products that they can practice with during the session and take home.

While the workshops help the women cope with the physical changes they’re facing, the process also helps them emotionally, said Roark

“They help put a smile on their faces and empower women to take control, giving them the confidence they so need,” she said.

Roark said that upon first hearing about the program, some people might think it’s shallow to worry about your appearance while you’re battling a disease like cancer. But she said physical appearance is an important part of a woman’s identity.

“If she is able to look like herself, she can take control and regain a sense of normalcy in at least one aspect of her life,” said Roark.

Look Good Feel Better has 6,000 volunteers in all 50 states, said Roark, who spend more than 150,000 hours each year with the program.

In the Bronx, workshops are held periodically at the American Cancer Society Bronx office, the Negro Women Council Building / North Bronx Development Ctr, Jacobi Medical Center, Lincoln Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center and St. Barnabas Hospital.

To learn more about the organization, visit www.lookg‌oodfe‌elbet‌ter.org or call 1-800-395-LOOK.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at jwill‌iams@‌cnglo‌cal.com.

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