Look Good Feel Better program empowers cancer patients

News / General
By Matthew Manor

A little more than 20 years ago a conversation between an oncology nurse and a patient sparked an idea that has since benefitted thousands of women battling cancer across Canada, including here at Kingston General Hospital.

The nurse was our CEO Leslee Thompson and the patient was Sherry Abbott, now Executive Director of the Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) program. The topic of conversation? Self-image and the difference looking good can make to women fighting cancer.

"My patient taught me about the importance self-image plays in helping women face cancer with confidence and hope," says Thompson, who was one of 20 women presented with the Facing Cancer Together Award of Honour last week for the part she played in pioneering the LGFB program in Canada. The program has benefitted 130,000 women and is available in 118 hospitals across the country.

"I am proud to know that women across the country, and right here at KGH, are benefitting from a program that ensures no woman has to face cancer alone," says Thompson.

Those benefits proved numerous for Kingston resident Connie Johnson. She recently attended the LGFB workshop at KGH while undergoing treatment for breast cancer and says the experience has been an important part of her recovery.

 

"When you say, "I've been diagnosed with cancer", people look at you differently - like there's no hope. It's important that I portray that I'm going to get through this. The program gave me the tools to look more like myself. And I enjoyed seeing the other women smiling, sharing their stories, wishing each other well and feeling good."

Mary Wooding, who is also receiving treatment at KGH for breast cancer, participated in the September workshop. She says LGFB helped her feel more optimistic about her situation.

"Before the program, I was adrift but not long afterward, I realized I could be doing more for myself," she says. "Now my outlook has changed."

How do LGFB workshops achieve such positive results? By applying make-up, meeting friends, laughing openly and forgetting everything says Bea Faraklas, Team Leader and Hair Alternative Specialist for LGFB's workshops at KGH.

"We teach women techniques to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer and its treatment. They arrive quiet and shy and leave with renewed self-confidence," she says.

The visible difference in the women's demeanor is part of what has kept LGFB volunteer Dianne Gavey coming back for 14 years. "When the women walk out the door, their appearance has totally changed," she says. "They look good and feel better. And that warms my heart."

During two-hour workshops, women are given tips about make-up and hair alternatives. Each woman receives a complimentary skincare kit and make-up products that she learns how to use and can take home. Women also learn about wig care and inventive ways of tying head scarves.

For Wooding, the time spent was minimal but the impact was huge. "The skills I learned are already helping me feel like Iím getting back to being myself. It was a fantastic experience," she says.

KGH's LGFB workshops are free and take place on the second Wednesday of each month. Next month's session happens on October 10 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.. For more information or to register for a workshop, visit: lookgoodfeelbetter.ca