Daily Herald American Cancer Society
Look Good . . . Feel Better puts new face on survivorship

"Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Carol Oehlerking, far right, owner of Carol's Hair Affair in Elk Grove Village, leads a session of Look Good…Feel Better. Participants from left are Judy Moss of Arlington Heights, Barbara Rabiola of Huntley and Kathleen Groenwald of Arlington Heights.

Best-selling author and life coach Martha Beck's thoughts may parallel those of many cancer survivors when it comes to defining beauty needs for those facing cancer. Altered make up and skin care needs, hair loss and other physical appearance changes during and after cancer treatment challenge personal perceptions, looks and even outlooks, according to cancer experts.

A labor of love

Carol Oehlerking, owner of Carol's Hair Affair in Elk Grove Village, knows first hand of the physical and emotional challenges cancer patients face.

As an eight-year breast cancer survivor whose treatment included a right side mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and reconstructive surgery, Oehlerking is no stranger to understanding beauty needs of cancer patients.

"Teaching others to look better so they feel better is a labor of love," explains Oehlerking, who now volunteers her time as an area trainer for the American Cancer's Society's Look Good…Feel Better program, a free, non-medical, brand-neutral national public service program.

Founded in 1989 by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and the American Cancer Society, the free, two-hour beauty workshops are designed for women currently undergoing cancer treatment. Workshops focus on a 12-step skin care and make up application session, demonstration of options for dealing with hair loss and nail care. Partnering with the National Cosmetology Association, member cosmetologists like Oehlerking donate their time to lead sessions throughout the northwest and western suburbs, and across the nation.

Transforming outlooks

Group make-over sessions offer women facing appearance-related side effects a chance to gain self-confidence and skills to transform not only looks, but outlooks, says Oehlerking, who in addition to training cosmetologists in the program, also leads Look Good…Feel Better workshops locally at Northwest Community Hospital, Arlington Heights.

Free individual make-up kits, valued at $250, are provided to each participant, along with hands-on opportunities to use products and learn skills including measuring and drawing eyebrows, eyeliner application, skin conditioning and toning.

For more information

Last year, the American Cancer Society assisted about 16,000 cancer patients and caregivers in Illinois. This year it hopes to help 21,500 people.

Through its Patient Navigation Services, the Society offers a broad range of complimentary programs and services. These include access to quality cancer information on diagnosis and treatment options, as well as assistance with financial or insurance questions; help with day-to-day needs like transportation to treatment; and opportunities for newly diagnosed cancer patients to meet with a survivor of the same cancer type for one-on-one emotional support.

To use any of these free programs and services or to learn more, call the American Cancer Society anytime at (800) ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.

"Everyone loves the program and while there may be reluctance at first, by the end of the day, most jump in to sample products and test new techniques," Oehlerking explains. "It's a great feeling of satisfaction knowing that simple make-up application and techniques can boost confidence and outlook."

Hair care, wigs & more

"I really empathize with cancer patients facing hair loss," says Linda DiFronzo, owner of Arlington Heights' Hair For You Salon and dedicated 14-year American Cancer Society volunteer wig expert.

"It's an amazing gift to be able to change someone's life," says DiFronzo whose 2-year-old niece battled leukemia and two sisters also have faced personal cancer battles.

"Losing your hair is devastating and I've always believed that if I have the skill, I should use it to help make a difference."

Following a personal one-half hour consultation in her salon, DiFronzo works with clients to help determine needs, size and fit, make adjustments, cut and style wigs and hand tailor for a customized fit.

Options, she says, include synthetic wigs and those made of human hair or ultra silky European hair, with prices ranging from $129 to $2,400 per wig.

"Wigs often need to be used not only during chemotherapy, but for up to a year after treatment is complete," explains DiFronzo, who has been a hair stylist since 1979.

"For any woman to have her head shaved, it's often more traumatic than the actual cancer treatment. Wigs can give them back a sense of identity and minimize shock."

DiFronzo, who also volunteers her time cutting wigs the first Monday of every month at the American Cancer Society's Arlington Heights office, says matching hair color and texture is important. So is finding the right wig for a client's lifestyle.

Free wigs and hair accessories to help disguise hair loss due to cancer treatment are available from the American Cancer Society by calling (800) ACS-2345.

Area salons help cancer patients

Hair loss can be devastating.

Debra Hanaway, co-owner of HIP Salon — Hair Innovation Professionals, a full service Schaumburg beauty salon, knows first hand of the distress and trauma of hair loss during cancer treatment. Ten years ago her mom battled leukemia and lost her locks during chemotherapy.

"Following treatment, hair begins to grow back," she says. "The baby fine hair can come back curly, colors and textures can change. Helping clients regain their pre-treatment style or discovering new styles is an amazing feeling."

About the First Cut program

For more information or to register for the Northwest suburban First Cut program, call the Arlington Heights office of the American Cancer Society at (847) 368-1166, option 3. Participating salons are:

Forbici Salon/Spa 7 South Highland Ave., Arlington Heights

Hair Preview Market Place Shopping Center, 741 W. Golf Road, Des Plaines

Long Grove Hair Studio 143 Old McHenry Road, Long Grove

HIP Salon Hair Innovation Professionals 174 East Golf Road, Schaumburg

Sorelle Salon 772 W. Bartlett Road, Bartlett

City Lights Hair Center 117-B Barrington Commons Plaza, Barrington

Hair For You Salon, Inc. 737 E. Dundee Road, Arlington Heights

Salon Lorrene 833 N. Quentin Road, Palatine

Armands Beauty Salon 1010 S Arlington, Arlington Heights

Shear Pleasure, Ltd. 237 W. Dundee Road, Palatine

Caruden Hair Design 127 S. NW Highway, Park Ridge

EOS 2567 W. Golf Road, Hoffman Estates

Hanaway and her colleagues are part of a new American Cancer Society First Cut program now available in the northwest suburbs and offering cancer patients a fresh new look at the conclusion of their treatment.

Several area hair salons including HIP Salon have partnered with the American Cancer Society to sponsor the First Cut program, which offers free haircuts to both men and women once their hair grows back after cancer treatment.

Initial re-growth isn't necessarily healthy hair, says Judy Solomon, owner of City Lights Hair Care Center, Barrington, another First Cut participating salon.

"It often takes several months for the chemotherapy agents to get out of each hair follicle," she says. "In the meantime, initial re-growth may be curly, frizzy, fuzzy or lack fullness. Skin may be ultra-sensitive, dry and itchy.

A woman's hair often is her crowning glory and hair loss can mean loss of dignity and identity. Helping women who have faced cancer regain that glory is an honor."

Hair loss, experts say, is a common side effect of cancer treatment. While not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss, even mild thinning or changes in texture can be devastating.

"When hair grows back it is often a different texture and color, which may prompt cancer survivors to try a different haircut or employ new styling techniques," Solomon notes.

"After cancer treatment, people often don't know what to do with their hair or they may want to try a totally different hairstyle. The First Cut program aims to nurture those who are battling the disease with extra pampering and a fresh, new look."

It's important for these clients to feel secure in seeking skills of a trained hair professional in a private and comfortable environment, she explains.

"Making others feel good makes me feel good," she says.

To learn more or register for First Cut, call the Arlington Heights office of the American Cancer Society at (847) 368-1166, option 3.


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