by Josh Whitener

MATTHEWS – Presbyterian Hospital Matthews is teaming up with the American Cancer Society to help boost the confidence and wellbeing of area women fighting cancer. Presbyterian Hospitals in Huntersville and Charlotte have seen great success with the program already.

The program reaches out to cancer patients – and those who have recently gone into remission – by teaching them beauty techniques to cope with the lingering cosmetic side effects caused by treatments. During the session, professional cosmetologists offer hair and makeup tips specifically geared toward cancer patients. The attendants also receive complimentary makeup kits with products to match their skin tone and have the opportunity to try on wigs and borrow them.

The American Cancer Society started the Look Good, Feel Good program in 1987 and brought it to Mecklenburg County more than 21 years ago.

The American Cancer Society works closely with other organizations to ensure women receive quality products and services. The Personal Care Products Council Foundation helps collect donations of makeup from brand name companies, while the National Cosmetology Association and the Professional Beauty Association work to recruit and train licensed cosmetologists who serve as volunteer instructors for the program.

“Beauticians interested in this program go through a four-hour training session. Treatment can affect bodies in different ways, so the volunteers learn about this and how to talk to the patients and relate to them,” said LeeAnna Perry, missions delivery manager for the American Cancer Society in Charlotte.

In addition to beauty tips, the program also teaches the importance of hygiene when applying makeup, something that’s very important as the women’s immune systems are compromised by the treatments.

“Woven into the class is a critical piece on how to keep the brushes and makeup from becoming contaminated. These woman are at a very vulnerable time, and this is a special type of makeover geared toward special” situations, Marcia Lampert, manager of the Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center, said.

Nidia Hinchey was diagnosed with cancer last November and endured some of the appearance-related effects of her treatments. Hinchey was invited to attend a Look Good, Feel Better session in March.

“The first 15 minutes were kind of like the first day of kindergarten.” Hinchey said. “But then when they said, ‘OK, take off your wigs and hats,’ we all became equals. It was amazing how close we became in those two hours.”

Through Look Good, Feel Better, Hinchey learned tips and received products that she has used throughout her treatment. In her makeup kit, she received a skin cream called Aquaphor, made by Eucerin, that has greatly relieved the burning effects of her radiation treatment.

“The mission (of the American Cancer Society) is to help people get well, stay well, find cures and fight back,” Perry said. “Look Good, Feel Better is part of that mission.”

For Hinchey, the program was life-changing. -

“I would advise anybody diagnosed with cancer to go and have that experience,” she said. “It is educational and empowering and helps you to say, ‘I can do this.’ It was a good step on our road to recovery, and I really, really wish that more people would know about this program.”