Program Helps Local Women

ST. MARYS — Licensed cosmetologists met with women who have cancer Monday as part of the Look Good, Feel Better campaign to discuss ways to look their best during chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

In the hour and a half program at St. Marys Community Public Library, volunteers Theresia Hedrick and Barb Thomas covered cancer treatment-related appearance problems, such as dry skin, paleness and hair loss. They worked with two women teaching blush, natural eye pencil application and gave each woman a kit donated by the American Cancer Society.

The cosmetologists also discussed practices that would minimize exposure to germs while wearing makeup, including sanitizing skin before application, throwing away makeup seasonally, and not pushing mascara brushes in and out of the tube, creating air bubbles where bacteria could breed.

Minimizing exposure to germs is a concern for cancer patients whose immune functioning can be vulnerable while undergoing treatment. The women also gave tips on how to keep from sweating while wearing a wig in the summer, and products that help regrow hair after chemotherapy.

“You’re going through all this, and you don’t want to leave the house looking as bad as you feel,” Hedrick said.

Part of the fun of the Look Good, Feel Better program, Hedrick said, was that women often share appearance concerns that other people in the group can understand, having already gone through the experience. While the volunteers may not know everything, someone in the group has usually had the experience, which is why Hedrick said she hopes more people in the St. Marys area would become aware of the program. When one woman revealed she had not yet lost all her hair, Thomas said some women have a very hard time, emotionally, seeing some hair come out every day.

“I tell people, if you can handle it, shave it off once and we’ll cry together,” Thomas said.

The women also went through resources available for people with cancer.

Mary Beth Torsell, who coordinates for the American Cancer Society in Auglaize County, said many people don’t know about the resources available to patients, from people who volunteer to clean houses, to rides back and forth to treatments, to gas vouchers, to hotel rooms for people who have treatments far away and early in the morning.

No concern should be considered silly, Torsell stressed. One patient said she was giving up treatment because she was unable to afford it, despite having good insurance. When ACS looked at financial information, however, they discovered she and her husband spent significant money treating their dog’s cancer.

“For many people, it would be an easy choice between the person and the dog, but they didn’t have children,” she said.

The ACS was able to find another agency that funded treatment of cancer in pets and get the dog’s treatment paid for, enabling the woman to continue her therapy.

“I know you hate to ask for help,” Thomas said at the end of the session. “But your friends just love it if you do. Because they feel helpless. They want to help.”