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Look Good, Feel Better boosts self-esteem

Women with cancer learn how to feel pretty again
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Honey Cowan said she’s never put on makeup before but applying foundation is helping her cope with a disease she never thought she’d have. Cowan, who was the first in her family to be diagnosed with cancer, admitted she reluctantly signed up for the first Look Good Feel Better class offered Monday through Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital. “I went in kind of skeptical and came out feeling wonderful,” Cowan said. The class, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, aims to build self-esteem for women diagnosed with, undergoing treatments for or recovering from cancer. Women enrolled in the free class receive a complimentary bag of name brand makeup products worth about $350. Volunteer cosmetologists teach the women not only how to apply makeup but how to cope with the physical affects of chemotherapy. For instance, they learn how to make a fashionable turban out of a T-shirt to hide hair loss on their head. They also learn how to account for facial hair loss. “We help them go back to work and look normal because without eyebrows you don’t look normal,” said Beverly Nason, a licensed cosmologist volunteer and cancer survivor. The class is also a chance for the women to share their experiences with one another, said Deryl Wallace, a representative with the American Cancer Society and a cancer survivor. “When you have cancer, you’re not feeling good,” Wallace said. “Then, you walk into a room of other women who look like you and you feel the camaraderie the women have among each other.” Cowan agreed that she connected with the eight other women taking the evening class with her. “I feel like I gained something and that I touched some people,” Cowan said. “It was such an awesome experience.” The class was offered for the first time through Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital Monday. Held at the hospital’s new United Auburn Indian Community Infusion Therapy Center, the class is a great addition to the cancer support groups already held on site, according to hospital foundation board president Linda Maeding. “This is an amazing program,” Maeding said. “When you’re going through cancer, depression is as much a part of it, so this truly makes people feel better.” Cowan said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2008. She said she found a lump herself and asked her doctor to schedule a mammogram. The doctor instead insisted on taking a biopsy and Cowan says it was that biopsy that saved her life. Cowan said she made it through two surgeries and 35 sessions of radiation with the help of her animals and her family. She said her experience has encouraged her to form a cancer outreach program of her own where she invites cancer patients to spend the day with her farm of animals including horses, goats and rabbits. “I had to have a reason,” Cowan said. “This couldn’t just happen to me. There had to be a reason.” Cowan is still on a long road to a recovery. She will take a medication to prevent cancer growth for the next five years. She said attending the Look Good Feel Better class is helping that recovery. “I think after cancer, you don’t feel pretty,” Cowan said. But after learning how to apply makeup, including eye shadow in her favorite color – purple – Cowan felt differently. And, she said, she could notice the change in the other women around her. “Everybody looked beautiful when they left,” Cowan said. “There was such a dramatic change in the way people felt. You could just see the sparkle in everybody.” Look Good Feel Better classes will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. May 18, August 31 and November 17 in the Infusion Center on 11710 Education Drive in Auburn. To register, call (800) 395-LOOK. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.