Nancy Lumb didn't cry when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year or when she had to give her husband and mother the news. The tears fell when she looked in the mirror at her balding head, dry yellow skin, and thinning eyebrows and eyelashes. "The chemotherapy robbed me of the person that I was," says the 41-year-old corporate services executive from Chevy Chase, Md. "I wanted to look like my old self, to know that people could see beyond my cancer."
Her oncology nurse told her about a free workshop called Look Good...Feel Better where a beauty professional would teach her how to apply makeup to smooth her skin, cover her under-eye circles, and make her eyelashes and brows look fuller. She also learned the art of fitting a wig, applying hairpieces under a baseball cap, and wrapping a head scarf. She says she was amazed by the results—how the techniques she learned helped her look like her old self again. Check out the before and after photos for yourself.
About a year after attending the two-hour workshop, she still keeps in touch with the friends she made there. "Being able to talk to women going through my same experience was awesome," she says. "No one really knows what it's like unless they've gone through it."
The Look Good...Feel Better program marks its 20th anniversary this year. About 650,000 cancer patients have attended the workshops, now held at 2,500 locations throughout the United States. There are programs for men and for teens as well as for women. "We've come a long way from our first workshops, held only at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York and Georgetown's Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington," says Louanne Roark, the program's executive director. The cost—which covers a bag of makeup—is picked up by the Personal Care Products Council, an industry group representing cosmetic and perfume manufacturers.
Cancer patients can find a workshop in their local area on the Look Good...Feel Better website. The site also has tons of information on skin and hair care for those suffering the rigors of cancer treatments.
As for Lumb, she's months beyond chemo and thrilled to have her natural hair back. "I've decided to grow it long. I never liked my hair before, but now I appreciate every little strand on my head."