Program gives cancer survivors a beautiful boost

Linda Fields lost her hair to cancer treatment, but there was no way she was going to give up her sense of style.

The 53-year-old Topaz Lake resident was one of three women participating in the "Look Good ... Feel Better" program offered to women cancer patients at Carson Valley Medical Center last week.

"It's like Christmas," said Fields as she looked through a box of makeup provided free to participants.

Each kit included cleansing products, moisturizer, foundation, blush, eyeshadow, eyebrow pencils, mascara, and makeup sponges from manufacturers including Clinique, Estée Lauder, Maybelline, Aveda, Revlon, Avon, Procter & Gamble and Rimmel.

"I have always worn makeup and I haven't stopped because of the cancer," Fields said.

Joining Fields last week were Sherrie Miller, 59, of Coleville, and Terrie Lepore, 47, of the Gardnerville Ranchos.

As she has for nine years as a volunteer, and 44 years as a professional beautician, Sybil Dunagan showed the women how to apply the makeup.

"I've met a lot of interesting ladies doing this and I've loved every one of them," Dunagan said.

"I like making people feel good. The ladies in this room are full of love and full of life."

The program is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association Foundation and the National Cosmetology Association.

Volunteers like Dunagan must be licensed cosmetologists.

Fields said she cut her hair when first diagnosed with breast cancer, then had her husband, Chuck, shave her head when the hair began to fall out.

"They told me it would come out in clumps," she said. "When it started showing up on my shoulder, I said, 'It's time,' and Chuck always wanted to give me a haircut."

She displayed an assortment of wigs she'd collected during the course of her treatment.

"I went red," she said. "I have never been a redhead. My hair went gray real early, but I didn't buy no gray-haired wig."

Fields wears a variety of knit caps to keep her head warm when she doesn't wear the wig.

"It really is different not having hair," she said, patting her head. "It is such a difference not having hair on your neck."

Miller said prior to her treatment, she didn't wear makeup.

"I like the lipstick," she said.

Dunagan also showed the women how to use turbans or scarves.

For Fields, her colleagues at Topaz Lodge have been a source of strength.

"I never know what I am going to see when I go into work," she said. "One day they all wore wigs - every style and color you can imagine."

She and her husband also own the Topaz Marina.

Miller also works at the lodge and Lepore is a phlebotomist at the medical center.

The program shows participants how to cope with potential hair loss and skin, complexion and nail changes brought on by chemotherapy, radiation and medication.

"One thing I have heard from doctors is the importance of sunscreen when you go outside," Dunagan said.

She showed the women how to make their eyebrows look more natural.

"If you fill in your eyebrow like this," she said, making short upward strokes, "it looks like real hair. It takes a little time, but it looks more natural."

Susan Sanford, who runs the medical center's Breast Cancer Resource Center, said the makeup sessions often serve as support groups.

"Sometimes, women have a hard time making that call," she said.

The women shared everything from what their bodies looked like after surgery to problems they were having with insurance.

Sanford is a breast cancer survivor, first diagnosed in 1992.

"We have a saying that you're a survivor the moment you open your eyes after surgery," Sanford said.


American Cancer Society

Carson Valley Medical Center


Information about "Look Good...Feel Better" and other programs for cancer survivors is available at the Breast Cancer Resource Center, 1516 Virginia Ranch Road, Gardnerville, across the street from the Carson Valley Medical Center. Telephone, 782-1656 or 267-4308. The American Cancer Society has a toll-free number, 1-800-227-2345.


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