Survivor helps cancer patients feel better

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By Sarrah Peters/News Editor

Every other first Monday of the month, Angela Klein, a hairdresser at Katy & Co. Hair Salon, heads to Gadsden Regional Cancer Center. She doesn’t go for treatment, at least not anymore. 

Klein is the Etowah County facilitator for the American Cancer Society. She works cutting hair through a program called Look Good Feel Better. The non-profit program aims to help cancer patients deal with the non-medical side effects of cancer treatments. 

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments can cause hair loss, changes in weight, dry skin and skin blemishes, such as dark circles beneath the eyes. Understandably, the changes in appearances can mentally discourage a patient that is already feeling ill from treatment. 

Klein knows about many of the side effects from her own experiences. She was first diagnosed with cancer at the age of 11. She went through chemotherapy and radiation. Then, she faced treatment again at 21, when she was diagnosed with a different type of cancer that is rare in young women. 

“It just hits close to home,” Klein said.

It was during the second treatment that Klein was approached by one of the staff and asked if she would like to contribute haircuts to patients by working with Look Good Feel Better. 

To combat the discouragement patients may feel during treatment, Look Good Feel Better offers female patients makeovers. These makeovers include make-up, nail care, and haircuts, wigs or head covering, depending on the needs or preferences of the patient.

The group setting of the makeover helps women share stories of what side effects they are going through and what side effects they might experience next.

All the supplies are provided to the patients through the program. 

Patients receive a kit with various types of makeup and hair and skin care products. The kits include higher end specialty products and the beauty basics. In all, the kits are worth about $300 to $400. 

“From personal experience, I can tell you that it is just incredible to see how different they feel when they leave,” said Alison Shirley, a representative of the Alabama Cancer Society.

The combined member companies of the Personal Care Products Council donate about $1 million products, with an estimated value of $10 million, a year. 

Look Good Feel Better began with one patient whose doctor was worried about her depression while undergoing cancer treatment. This doctor asked Ed Kavanaugh, former president of the Personal Care Products Council, to give her a makeover. 

The inspiring results of the makeover led to the idea of the program. The American Cancer Society and The National Cosmetology Association gave their support to make the idea a reality. 

“They realized that women were really having trouble dealing with the side effects of [cancer] treatments,” said Shirley.

The program has grown from two hospitals to include chapters in all 50 states. Look Good Feel better has helped over 800,000 women in the nation. The program has also expanded with Spanish-speaking, teen and men’s programs. 

For more information on the program, visit www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org.

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