Cancer Care, Inc. Sponsors Make-Up Clinics for Chemo Patients

April 1, 1995

NEW YORK--Ten women, some of them in wigs, some without eyebrows or eyelashes, sat around a conference table spread with make-up. They were at a free "Improve Your Appearance" clinic at Cancer Care, Inc., where a cosmetician was demonstrating how make-up can improve the special beauty problems that come with chemotherapy.

NEW YORK--Ten women, some of them in wigs, some without eyebrowsor eyelashes, sat around a conference table spread with make-up.They were at a free "Improve Your Appearance" clinicat Cancer Care, Inc., where a cosmetician was demonstrating howmake-up can improve the special beauty problems that come withchemotherapy.

The women watched intently as cosmetician Kathy Pomerance useda brush and powder to give a woman named Jeanette natural lookingeyebrows. Jeanette was pleased. "They don't have experiencewith someone like me at the department stores," she said."They just make you, you know, Joan Crawford eyebrows."

Looking normal while undergoing treatment is one of the problemscancer patients face, said Carolyn Messner, ACSW, BCD, directorof education and training at Cancer Care. The agency was foundedin 1944 to help cancer patients and their families cope with theimpact of cancer. Today it is the largest agency in the countryproviding professional full-time social services as well as financialaid to cancer patients.

"Cancer patients, in general, are much more functional thanthey were 10 or 20 years ago. They are able to go back to workfull time and manage their family responsibilities," Ms.Messner said. "They have to be able to return to their socialroles and the workplace looking like they have always looked.Make-up allows them to look like themselves--sometimes even better."

Cosmeticians, like hairdressers, get to hear their clients' innermostthoughts and feelings. "Working with the youngest women isthe hardest," Ms. Pomerance said. "Their lives and theirfamilies' lives are changed so radically, so early."

But none of the women, whatever their age, appear bitter,"said Ms. Pomerance, a freelance make-up artist who specializesin paramedical camouflage (cosmetics for burn and accident victims)and does make-up at a Manhattan boutique for women who have hadmastectomies. "What's gratifying is their enthusiasm. It'sfun and exciting to see them looking healthier and feeling prettier,"she said.

Ms. Pomerance was also enthusiastic as she talked to the womenat the Cancer Care clinic. "Something else to think aboutwhen you're going through chemo is bright colors. Think bright!Don't be afraid to use color because it will counteract sallowness."

Moisturizer should be used to combat the drying effects of chemotherapy,and blusher to combat the sallowness, she said. And what aboutmissing eyelashes? "No eyelashes? No big deal," shesaid. "We'll use eyeliner."

Such individual attention helps rebuild women's self-esteem, Ms.Messner said. "Much of medical care is a bit dehumanizing.Women will often say, 'I feel like damaged goods.' They've losttheir hair, a breast. They feel they are not quite as intact asothers. Anything a clinician can do to see that person as an individualperson helps her get back on track, cope, and feel whole."

Looking better also makes patients feel less tired, accordingto Lois Almadrones, RN, MPA, OCN, clinical research associate,Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Ms. Almadrones discussedthat point during a Cancer Care seminar for professionals aboutunderstanding and treating fatigue in cancer patients.

"How many of us have seen women go into these workshops withtheir alopecia and no make-up?" she said. "They're paleand they don't feel good, and then they put on a little make-up,a scarf, a turban, and they look 100% better! You can see thefatigue almost melt off their faces because their self-image isbetter."

"This does make you feel better about yourself," saidAndrea, a shy fortyish woman who had lost her thick head of darkhair during chemotherapy. Studying herself in a mirror at theappearance clinic, Andrea liked the new make-up she had put onto go with the blond wig she now wears.

At the front of the room, Ms. Pomerance was finishing up her make-updemonstration. She stepped back to give everybody a good lookat Jeanette. "She looks beautiful!" one of the womensaid. "Shall we applaud now?" another asked. And theyall did.