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Program Accomplishes Mission: Look Good, Feel Better

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POSTED September 19, 2012 5:21 p.m.

As if getting a cancer diagnosis was not bad enough, the treatment typically brings its own set of terms and conditions. For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, the change is often dramatic, from the loss of hair to changes in skin color, even the disappearing of eyelashes.

But there is a program to help.

The American Cancer Society’s “Look Good, Feel Better” program in cooperation with the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and the National Cosmetology Association, is designed to help cancer patients learn how to counteract the physical appearance changes their treatment brings.

Classes help cancer patients deal with the changes, providing tips ranging from applying make-up to using wigs or scarves to compensate for hair loss.

Community Mission Director Linda Sites of the Modesto American Cancer Society office said the two-hour class provides a basic foundation for patients.

“It’s like a 12-step program,” she said of patients learning to follow the step-by-step instructions to improving their outward appearance. That change, she said, often leads to patients feeling better about themselves, not as self-conscious about the changes their cancer – and its treatment – brings. In that way, the class does just what its name implies, helping patients both “look good” and “feel better” about themselves.

“We cover everything from head wraps to nail treatment, basic make up,” Sites explained.

Specially trained facilitators put on the classes and the sessions are offered on a regular basis in Modesto, Turlock, Sonora and Merced.

“They have to be a licensed cosmetologist or esthetician,” to become an ACS Look Good, Feel Better facilitator, Sites added of program volunteers.

Training for facilitators is scheduled several times a year, while the classes for the cancer patients are put on monthly.

“We need more facilitators, especially in the Modesto and Oakdale areas,” Sites said.

There is a requested commitment to serve as a facilitator for a year after completing the training. The facilitators basically put on the two-hour class for patients, helping them learn how to use the make-up, head wraps, nail colors, wigs and more to improve their overall appearance.

“Often times, we will have the new person shadow a facilitator, attend a class with them,” Sites added, before they host a class of their own.

The facilitators are asked to put on about six classes a year, and Sites said they limit the class to four cancer patients so the instruction can be personalized and there is plenty of time for questions and one-one-one interaction. The more patients signed up for the class, the more facilitators are needed for that month’s session.

Facilitators themselves go through a one day class for their basic instruction, then can do the ‘shadowing’ and get comfortable with the program. As far as getting involved, Sites said it is like many volunteer programs.

“I would say it’s mostly from the ‘personal ask’ area, one of our facilitators got involved because her mom had cancer; another stylist, her mother-in-law had cancer,” Sites said.

That personal connection, or just having someone ask, is what usually brings volunteers in.

“Two years ago we had no facilitators, no classes (out of the Modesto office),” she added.

But now the program is stable and helping meet the needs of cancer patients to help them feel better about themselves. That can lead to benefits in treatment as well, with a positive outlook a key factor.

Sites said she has some volunteers in Manteca, some in Sonora, as well as the Modesto-Oakdale area. Those interested in learning more about the program – either to refer a friend undergoing treatment or recommending a potential facilitator – can contact Sites at 209-524-7242.

Currently, the Look Good, Feel Better class is designed for women. There is a brochure and online information available for men and teens in cancer treatment but the ‘face to face’ training class is for women only. Visit www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org for additional information on the program and how to get involved.

“The cancer patients sign up through our office,” Sites said of attending a class. “We always know ahead of time how many we’ll have, so if we have eight attending, we will need two facilitators.”

Those attending also receive a special kit that has everything from cleanser to moisturizer, powder to eyeliner.

“The kit is valued at about $350,” Sites said. “It has just about everything they need.”

Typically, cancer patients attend the class just one time. They can come back for further instruction and tips if they want, but they must bring their kit with them on subsequent visits.

The American Cancer Society’s toll free number can also direct people to local classes and services, 1-800-227-2345.

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