‘Look Good, Feel Better’ program helps cancer patients at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.
Luz Vargas’s beautiful long hair was gone.
“I had just finished my chemo and radiation treatments for breast cancer and had lost 17 inches of hair,” she remembered. “I felt devastated.”
A nurse at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx (www.sbhny.org) told her about the “Look Good, Feel Better” program that has been conducted on the hospital’s fourth floor oncology unit for the past two years. The American Cancer Society program, in partnership with the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and the National Cosmetology Association, provides cancer patients at participating hospitals with makeup and tips to make them look and feel better about themselves.
She suggested that Luz attend a session, which she did with her husband.
“It was so good,” she said. “It helped us bond even closer. They told me I looked beautiful and it really brought back my spirits. I was so glad I went. It made me feel so much better.”
Myrna Perez, a nurse on the oncology unit at St. Barnabas, had seen how much the program meant to her patients. Then when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she saw what it meant from the other side.
“I knew the program as a nurse and thought the patients got a lot out of it, but when I attended as a patient I saw it differently,” she said. “You lose your eyebrows and eyelashes with chemo in addition to your hair. You don’t want to go outside.
“But with the makeup they gave us, everything looked so natural. They showed me how to put a kerchief over my head, which is important when it’s hot and you don’t want to wear a wig. It was good to go through it with other people going through the same thing. It was so good for my body image and made such a difference.”
Teri Barona, the nurse who coordinates the “Look Good, Feel Better” program at St. Barnabas Hospital, sees these reactions all the time.
“I’ve never seen anyone walk out of here not feeling better,” she said. “We make their cheeks rosy and we throw on lipstick so they don’t look so pale or tired. They no longer feel self-conscious. It all comes down to ‘if you look good, you feel good.’ ”
Everything provided in the session is free, and the makeup is of high quality. Each two-hour, hands-on workshop includes a 12-step skin care/makeup application lesson, a demonstration of options for dealing with hair loss and nail care techniques. Patients receive make-over tips and personal attention from professionals. This includes cosmetic kits in their appropriate skin tones and advice on wigs, scarves and accessories.
“We had a patient come in not too long ago with her husband, who was very supportive,” said Barona. “She had given up, had no interest in how she looked. When she looked in the mirror after being made up and saw how good she looked, she and her husband got up and hugged each other. It really affected her. It was a very emotional moment for both of them.”