Program helps cancer survivors 'Look Good, Feel Better'

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Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013 5:58 pm | Updated: 9:09 pm, Tue Jun 18, 2013.

SARASOTA - Sometimes when the big things in life knock you down, a little thing can come along and give you the courage to get back on your feet and fight again another day. And that’s the goal at just such a program at the American Cancer Society.

Look Good, Feel Better is an extremely successful program where instructors help the cancer survivors perk up their looks with skin care, make-up, and hair styling or wigs.

"I show them how to do some neat little tricks with t-shirts sleeves, or the bottom part of a tee shirt, how to do scarves when they don't feel like wearing a wig, or how to do a hat, dress it up, dress it down," says volunteer Suzanne Stepek. She took the class herself 13 years ago when she was fighting breast cancer. "When I found out about the class, my hair had just started growing back in, and just the comraderie, the fun, the playing with the make-up, it just gave a real boost."

It helped her so much, she now volunteers to pass what she learned on to others. "They gave me the tools and the confidence to go out and face the world, even though I was bald."

Licensed cosmetologists are also on hand with professional advice and guidance. "We give a box of makeup valued at $300 and we teach them how to take care of their skin, and then we bring them in here and give them wigs, hats, and scarves," says volunteer Mary Devolder.

All of it is free to take home.

Cancer survivor Arlene Mominede goes there to learn to use make-up and to get a wig. “When I first got cancer, I was depressed; I had never been through anything like this before. And I had to go in for surgery; I had never had surgery my whole life, I'm 72, and it was a real scare."

But now she's on the road to recovery and she says the Look Good, Feel Better class has really given her a lift. A brunette before she lost her hair, she's going for a blonde wig and she's going out there to see if blondes really do have more fun. "It seems like I can go out there and prance around now."

A group of strangers walked in to the group; many with the signs of the stress and struggle they've been through written on their faces. But a group of friends are leaving, ready to face the world.

"When they come in, they are so down. And when they leave, they're smiling and happy and they made friends, and very often this bond lasts for years," says Devolder.

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