The Look Good Feel Better Blog
By: Maya Zahran
When the Look Good Feel Better program first launched in the United States, no one could have predicted the program would thrive and develop into an internationally recognized cancer care program for well over two decades.
From all of us at the Cancer Patients Foundation and the Look Good Feel Better program in Australia we would like to congratulate our US affiliate on reaching an incredible milestone: twenty-five years of exemplary care for those undergoing treatment for cancer. Thank you for paving the way for an internationally recognized cancer support charity.
By 1990, Australia was just the second country to introduce the Look Good Feel Better program to the health and cosmetic industries. Today, we proudly recognize that more than 110,000 people have attended a LGFB workshop in Australia. Last year we helped 10,000 cancer patients deal with the physical side-effects of cancer treatment and the plan is to increase our capacity in the years to come.
The Australian LGFB program has shifted and evolved to provide a service of excellence in 180 locations across the country including in cancer care centers, hospitals and local community venues. We offer workshops for women, men and teens thanks to our army of 1,500 volunteers nationwide. Our newest service – the Home-Delivered Confidence Kit aims to address the needs of patients who for health or travel reasons are unable to attend a workshop.
The program has been heavily supported by the cosmetic industry who donated more than $2.5 million worth of product to the program last year. Our success is also growing with other fruitful corporate partnerships – including that of P&G’s Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign which sees real hair ponytails being transformed into real-hair wigs to be distributed to LGFB patient’s free-of-charge.
LGFB Australia is committed to the social arena by being present on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – and encourages workshop participants, cosmetic industry volunteers and health professionals to use these platforms to engage with one another in support.
We look forward to continue strengthening our mission alongside our international partners to help cancer patients face cancer with confidence.
This year, Look Good Feel Better is celebrating its 25th Anniversary, and in celebration of this milestone we have been reflecting on what makes our program a success. Look Good Feel Better simply wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of our volunteers all over the United States. Throughout the year, we will be highlighting some of the volunteers that have worked with Look Good Feel Better from the beginning, and we are proud to have Linda Whitehurst as our first featured volunteer.
Linda has been a Look Good Feel Better volunteer for 25 years, and has served in a number of volunteer roles, including workshop facilitator, state coordinator, area trainer and national trainer. She is the owner of the Parasol Hair Studio in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has been working as a licensed beauty professional for over 35 years, Linda is also a member of the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), a national organization with members that include salons, spas, distributors, manufacturers and more than 25,000 beauty professionals. She is the PBA LGFB national project director and represents the volunteer perspective among the national operations staff from PBA, PCPCF, and ACS.
I first heard about the Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) program at the 1989 National Cosmetology Association Show in California, shortly after LGFB was launched. There was an article in American Salon that provided information about the opportunities for cosmetologists to become part of this amazing program, helping women with cancer by demonstrating how to camouflage appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment, using skin care and makeup products donated by the cosmetic industry, and helping them to use wigs, hats, and scarf-tying techniques to deal with hair loss. My heartstrings said, “You have to be part of this program! I signed up, was certified in 1990, and have been involved since then. I now regularly volunteer once a month at Levine Cancer Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, andI also fill in at Buddy Kemp Support Center at Presbyterian Hospital as needed. Soon I will also be volunteering at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.
After working with the program for nearly 25 years, one word stands out when describing LGFB: confidence. I see women over and over come into workshops timid, not at all sure they want to be there, and after the two hours are over, the confidence and self-esteem they have gained gives them a radiant glow. I always remember this one patient that came to an LGFB workshop before taking a trip to the islands with her family. When she returned she brought me a poem she wrote about losing her brows to the ocean, but thanks to LGFB she had the skills to put them back so no one noticed.
Stories like this are why I volunteer. It is so gratifying and keeps my life in perspective, reminding me of what is really important. We all need to find our passion to “give back,“ and LGFB is a program that makes me feel I am making a difference on many levels, but, the most important is every woman I touch in my patient workshops.
By Louanne Roark, Executive Director, Personal Care Products Council Foundation and Look Good Feel Better
Twenty five years ago - in March of 1989 – Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) was introduced as a simple idea to leverage the expertise of the beauty industry to help women living with cancer who were struggling with morale-crushing, appearance side effects of treatment. The concept was to offer education and expert beauty guidance from caring volunteers to help improve a woman’s changed appearance, self-esteem, and outlook, and give her the ability to approach her disease and treatment with greater confidence.
Today, the Institute of Medicine has underscored the importance of oncology professionals treating the whole patient - not only providing lifesaving medical treatment, but also offering appropriate interventions to reduce the psycho-social stressors related to cancer treatment. Back in 1989, however, the psychological impact of cancer was just beginning to be examined and the concept of helping a woman cope with the distressing and sometimes alarming appearance side effects of cancer treatments - including changes in skin and nails, and hair loss that often leave patients unable to recognize the person looking back at them in the mirror - were largely unrecognized, leaving women to fend for themselves to find solutions.
All of that changed with the introduction of Look Good Feel Better following pilot programs in New York City and Washington, D.C. The program has since grown into a thriving and highly successful domestic and global cancer support program reaching nearly 900,000 women in the U.S. and nearly 1.5 million women in 26 countries around the world.
Through the years, Look Good Feel Better has expanded its reach and audiences with the addition of a Spanish-language program for women (Lucza Bien Siéntase Mejor) ; a program serving teenagers with cancer (Look Good Feel Better for Teens); and educational resources for men with cancer (Look Good Feel Better for Men). We also offer At-Home materials for patients who cannot attend a group workshop, and Virtual Workshops were introduced in 2011 to give women the live, interactive, group workshop experience in the comfort of their homes.
More recently, a new styling component was developed with celebrity stylist Stacy London and introduced to LGFB volunteers and patient workshops late last year. In 2013 we also introduced a new, mobile optimized LGFB Virtual Makeover Tool available on our web site http://lookgoodfeelbetter.org/beauty-guide/virtual-makeover-tool and the free LGFB Beauty iPhone App to help reach women with LGFB information and support whenever they need us, and wherever they find themselves (such as in the chemo infusion clinic!).
This anniversary tribute is not complete without acknowledging and thanking the many cosmetic industry companies who have supported the Personal Care Products Council Foundation’s (PCPCF) LGFB efforts over the years with financial contributions, product donations and in-kind expertise and support. The caring and generosity of the industry is apparent in the $12 million worth of product they donate to the program each year, and in the $42 million they have raised over the years for the DreamBall (which provides financial support to LGFB), and in the invaluable management and marketing expertise and consulting they have offered. Impressively, the original 25 companies who believed in LGFB enough to provide the seed money to initiate the program’s development in 1988 are still supporters today.
Our anniversary celebration is also not complete without acknowledging and thanking the American Cancer Society and the Professional Beauty Association, the PCPCF’s national collaborators who also demonstrated their belief in the LGFB concept when they joined forces with us in 1989 to provide their expertise and grassroots resources to help deliver the program. The ACS and their mission delivery staff across the country, and the PBA’s thousands of beauty professionals who have stepped forward to volunteer for the program have made enormous contributions to the growth and success of LGFB. They are the foot soldiers in our battle to help women find normalcy and their own personal beauty during the most trying of moments.
To the PCPCF’s 25 global affiliates offering LGFB around the world, we salute you and your dedication to helping women with cancer to find the hope and courage to reimagine beauty. Your passion and commitment are remarkable, and through our combined resources, we collectively have the honor of offering an extraordinary global cancer support program second to none.
As we look to the future, our challenge is to continue to grow the LGFB program to help the more than 800,000 U.S. women who will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone. Our goal is to find new and creative ways to reach the many women who can benefit and draw strength from our services and support.
We invite you to join us in this anniversary year to find YOUR unique way to Reimagine Beauty and support Look Good Feel Better. Look Good Feel Better illuminates the power of beauty to help a woman with cancer re-define herself and how the world sees her. You can help share that power. Every referral, every partnership, every conversation, and every donation helps us reach women with cancer.
On behalf of those women, join us to Reimagine Beauty.
Today we bring you the fourth and final installment from our guest blogger Jane Wilkens Michael, host of the Jane Wilkens Michael Show…Better Than Before.
For my fourth and final contribution to this wonderful site for this particular series of posts, I wanted to share advice that I hope will inspire readers to look and feel Better Than Before forever more. I am happy to report that I am about to start working on my new book on this very subject. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, my Better Than Before program actually began with cancer survivors. I was personally motivated by a doctor from Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City, the world’s preeminent cancer hospital, who I interviewed very early on in my research. (Note: The Look Good Feel Better program is offered at this hospital.)
In referring to trying to ensure that patients enjoyed a satisfying quality of life long after their protocol was completed, he told me, “Doctors cannot do it alone, and too often patients cannot do it either—it must be a team effort. We don’t just save lives – we want to change them, as well. Once their treatments are finished, it is up to the survivors themselves to take over.” But, as we all know, it takes a lot more than just eating kale, walking around the block and thinking happy thoughts to be a thriving survivor.
Recently, I had the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of a new book from Spry Publishing. Survivorship, Living Well During and After Cancer Survivorship (available for sale April 1, 2014) by a distinguished author, Dr. Barrie Cassileth, PhD, Laurance S. Rockefeller Chair and Chief of the Integrative Medicine department at MSKCC. Conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation treat the tumor, but adjunctive complementary (integrative) therapies such as acupuncture, massage, meditation, guided imagery and self-hypnosis, and yoga, deal with the physical and emotional symptoms.
Dr. Cassileth stresses, though, that bogus “alternative” treatments must be separated from “complementary” therapies which are evidence-based and used to control symptoms and enhance well-being, but never instead of conventional treatment. That being said, here are four tried and true modalities that she mentions in her book, along with her comments:
1) Food: “What you eat matters. It’s a simple, perhaps obvious fact, but one that is too frequently overlooked.” The doctor suggests that survivors continue to focus on maintaining a healthy weight by choosing a diet comprised of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat foods, including dairy. “Replacing carbohydrates and animal fat with vegetables is a smart move as it improves survival in patients with cancer.”
2) Activity: “A flood of recent studies shows that cancer patients who are more physically active tend to live longer after their diagnosis and are at decreased risk of the cancer coming back.” She suggests combining yoga with aerobic exercise and resistance training in order to achieve the greatest benefits for both mind and body.
3) Acupuncture: “Research demonstrates that acupuncture can safely and significantly reduce physical and emotional symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment.” And while it does not treat the cancer itself, it does help to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression, as well as chemotherapy-related and postoperative nausea and vomiting, hot flashes, xerostomia (extreme dry mouth), chronic fatigue, lymphedema, and peripheral neuropathy (nerve-related tingling or lack of feeling in hands or feet).
4) Mind-Body Medicine: “The tools of mind-body medicine, such as meditation, guided imagery, and biofeedback, can reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and other negative thoughts and feelings. In so doing, they can help to prevent serious illnesses from worsening, or at least help you through the disease with as little mental and physical wear and tear as possible. Through practice and discipline, mind-body approaches also increase your ability to manage stress.”
So until we meet again, I leave you with this thought: Being Better Than Before doesn’t mean that we have to change the world. All we need to do is direct a little more positive energy toward improving our lives and our universe today than we did yesterday – in other words, to slowly become Better Than Before!
Today we bring you the third installment from our guest blogger Jane Wilkens Michael, host of the Jane Wilkens Michael Show…Better Than Before.
During this holiday season many years ago I discovered my mission – my passion – in life. I found that in helping others to become Better Than Before, I might truly make a difference. And for my family, friends, readers and CBS radio audience, it is the gift that has kept on giving. I am continually inspired whenever they thank me for guiding them, either in person, print or on the air, onward and upward on the Ladder to a Better Quality of life, as part of their journey to looking and feeling Better Than Before.
I find it particularly encouraging, though, when the cancer survivors among them tell me how they are now able to view themselves in a new light, even after all they have endured. “Physically, emotionally and spiritually I may have been through the ringer,” one breast cancer survivor recently shared with me. “But I truly surprised myself that I emerged on the other side a much stronger person.” She told me that she now has a far greater appreciation for life and how simple acts of kindness can be so empowering. “I am also looking through a different lens now and I am grateful for that. Even my scars don’t have a negative connection anymore. They remind me of everything I’ve been through and I’m still here. I no longer focus on how sick and weak I was, but how strong I am now.”
It is important to remember that the road to a better quality of life is paved with the small decisions that we make each day. Lasting benefits rarely come from dramatic changes. Therefore, start by taking baby steps. And find a task that you know you are able to easily accomplish. Even the smallest action you can do to move forward creates the positive momentum that propels you up the Better Than Before ladder.
Think of the Japanese word Kaizen. It is actually made up of two words, “kai” meaning change, and ‘zen’ to make good or make better. Therefore, we should make an effort to continuously improve each day through tiny, incremental changes. Granted, depression, anxiety and stress are always hovering around. It’s how we handle those challenges, however, that makes us succeed — or succumb! Try to focus on what’s positive in your world and not dwell on what could go wrong. I found that most life-altering events, good or bad, can help us progress on the path to where we want to go. So even if they are not what we expected, it’s important to learn from them and become a stronger person because of them. No matter what we are dealt in life, we can find a way to work through it. Never give up.
Start by simply visualizing a twelve- rung ladder. Then familiarize yourself with each of the Lifestyle Disciplines — in other words, the Rungs. Think of a quick tip for each that you have found helpful or would like to try. For example, was there a makeup suggestion from the Look Good Feel Better website? Or a recipe that you could slip into the Creative Rung? For the Healthy Home Rung, try reciting this mantra as soon as you wake up: Every day in every way I am feeling Better Than Before. For the Support Rung, saying “I love you”—whether to your spouse, a friend, your caregiver or your kids—is a bona fide mood lifter and stress reducer. And when you say “thank you,” you increase your optimism and boost your immune system.
So with the New Year rapidly approaching, remember to let go of all anger and resentment; and, most importantly, try to be kind to yourself – after all, you’re the only self you have! Finally, as you begin your climb, never forget three important life lessons: Love deeply, forgive quickly, and above all, try to become just a little Better Than Before.
LGFB is excited to have another guest post by Jane Wilkens Michael, host of the Jane Wilkens Michael Show…Better Than Before. Here is part two of her four part installment for LGFB!
Even after being told by your oncologist that you are free of any visible signs of disease, you still may be left to cope with psychological, physical, social and spiritual setbacks, along with all the accompanying issues and anxieties. And you well may be asking: “What do I do now?”
The Better Than Before program features a unique visualization technique, a 12-rung symbolic ladder. Each rung represents an important lifestyle change – a Lifestyle Discipline —in a specific area and delivers a wealth of information to help you relax, renew, and replenish. Indeed, the rungs cover all the diverse quality-of-life challenges that you might confront on a daily basis.
The purpose of the ladder is two-fold. Not only is each rung loaded with advice from doctors and lifestyle experts, but you can take suggestions from all the other valuable sources available to you — such as those on the Look Good Feel Better site —and pop them into one of the appropriate rungs. So if you are overwhelmed and unable to process even one more piece of information, it’s an easy and effective way to file all the data and integrate it into your everyday life.
Here’s how the ladder works: Grab onto each rung, each day, choosing but one easy lifestyle tip at a time and visualize yourself, with very little effort, beginning your climb to a better quality of life. The goal is to make each day — and in some cases, each hour — a little Better Than Before.
While the concept is extremely simple, when used every day, separately and in combination, each rung becomes a powerful force that gives guidance and encouragement, which leads to hope and a renewed sense of self, energy, and enthusiasm.
Here is a brief summary set of rungs of what a starter ladder might include:
1) Doctor’s Orders: Better health, mental and physical, begins with proper medical care. If you’ve been prescribed a medication, follow the recommended course fully, even after your symptoms have disappeared. Express Scripts members can talk to a specialty pharmacist by calling the member number on their card. For others looking for more information about cancer treatment, adherence and other key topics, visit lab.express-scripts.com.
2) Emotional Health: Life is challenging, but the one thing we can control completely is our own thoughts. Make them work for you. Today — and every day – make an effort to choose happiness.
3) Nutrition: A healthy breakfast is your power meal, the most important anti-fatigue and anti-anxiety tool. Always consider your supermarket your lifestyle pharmacy. Be sure to check all labels for chemical additives: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.
4) Fitness: Start your fitness program slowly. Just go for a ten-minute walk before or after breakfast if you haven’t been exercising regularly.
5) Beauty: Glance in the mirror and say just one thing that you like about yourself. The Look Good Feel Better website offers great advice from so many experts, and it’s just a click away.
6) Natural Remedies: Take a moment to stop everything, sit in a relaxing position, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Slowly, steadily, breathe in and out through your nose, feeling calming warm air on each exhale. Now bring to mind and visualize a place that you always found the most peaceful.
7) Support: Happiness is contagious so don’t forget to smile. It will encourage others do so in return.
8) Spirituality: Thank your higher power for giving you this day, and don’t be afraid to ask for help for any other problem that might turn up, no matter how big or small.
9) Creativity: Think of one thing you wish to do today that will bring joy into your life—then make a plan to accomplish it.
10) Healthy Home: Make a small part of your home into your private sanctuary. Visit it daily and repeat a mantra, such as: “I have the wisdom, the power, and the courage to become Better Than Before.”
11) Reward: Your first reward is simply knowing that you have taken positive steps forward by using your ladder this morning. It will inspire you to do more on a regular basis. Look back on what you’ve accomplished. Enjoy it, savor it.
12) Giving Back: Tell your caregiver that you are planning on having a wonderful day and ask if he or she would like to join you.
See you next month with more. Till then, as I say as a sign off on my radio show — Be Wise. Be Well. Be Better Than Before.
Our executive director Louanne Roark was recently interviewed by Jane Wilkens Michael, host of the Jane Wilkens Michael Show…Better Than Before, on CBS Radio, The Sky. We are thrilled to have Jane as a guest blogger over the next few months. Below is part one of her four part installment on the LGFB blog. Enjoy!
I first came up with the concept of Better Than Before years ago, when I was writing the “Beauty Talk” column for Town & Country Magazine. At that time, I became involved with a cosmetic and fragrance industry initiative called Look Good…Feel Better that I learned helped women cancer patients improve their appearance and self-image by teaching them hands-on beauty techniques. The very valid assumption was that when survivors were able to see themselves in a better light, they recovered quicker, both mentally and physically.
Over the next decade, I saw firsthand the amazing opportunities Look Good Feel Better offered survivors who wanted to improve their quality of life but didn’t know where to begin. I realized that those who were either longtime cancer survivors or were dealing with the debilitating effects of their protocol, knew how unrealistic it was to just think happy thoughts, as many well-meaning loved ones and friends encouraged them to do. Alas, brief surges of positivity were often replaced by fears of recurrence or feelings of hopelessness, uncertainty, isolation, fatigue and even guilt.
Taking inspiration from Look Good Feel Better, after writing a book on sport’s nutrition and, most currently, a health, beauty, and fitness column and hosting a weekly lifestyle program on CBS radio, both with a worldwide audience, I also wanted to reach out to this special group of women. My goal, too, was to help them overcome the physical, emotional, spiritual, social and psychological traumas they confronted on a daily basis.
Finding solutions became my passion. Truth be told, it was an unusual endeavor for me, a confirmed hypochondriac who consults a disease-of- the-day calendar (for the curious, today it’s Hives). But I wanted to present survivors with an easy-to-follow, comprehensive system that encompassed a variety of lifestyle techniques that addressed many of their complaints and concerns.
To that end, I worked with a renowned oncologist as well as a three-time, stage-IV survivor. I spoke not only with doctors and lifestyle specialists but with countless survivors themselves – women and men. I discovered that the majority wanted to get off that emotional roller coaster and reclaim their lives. Yet a surprisingly large number often asked: “What do I do now?”
They had every intention of taking a more active role in their own recovery, but at times were too overwhelmed to do so. Therefore, my challenge was to make everything they learned easy to access, organize and process. And thus Better Than Before was born.
Better Than Before features a unique delivery system—a visualization technique — the highlight of which is a symbolic 12-rung ladder that works to help resolve some of the issues that hold survivors back from achieving the quality of life they so desire but never thought possible. Each “rung” represents a key area — a lifestyle discipline —that can be effortlessly incorporated into anyone’s daily routine. .
Next in this series, I will talk about the twelve rungs, give instructions on how to use them, and include a lifestyle tip for each. In the meantime, though, I would like to share an uplifting message from Geralyn Lucas, author of the best-selling Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy: “I never thought of myself as a brave person,” she told me, “but I had to learn courage during my treatment. I still recall the morning of my mastectomy. I saw the EXIT sign in the hospital and wanted to escape, but I didn’t run away. I got wheeled in, and I think a different person was wheeled out. Courage isn’t something we are born with; it is something that can be discovered during the most terrifying times. Whenever I am faced with anything scary in life, I think about that morning in the O.R. And how, since I did that, I can do anything. I am not afraid anymore.”
“Remember,” she smiled, “just when a caterpillar thinks its life is over, it turns into a butterfly.”
Added another longtime survivor: “Someone once told me I’m still here because I wasn’t afraid of dying. No! I told them. I just wasn’t afraid of living!!”
Cancer survivors are members of a very special “club.” No one can have an appreciation and compassion for life more than someone who has almost lost it. Now is the time to spread your wings like a butterfly, emerge from the cocoon that cancer has put you in, and flutter onward and upward to a quality of life that is Better Than Before.
I’ll be back soon with Part II. Until then….stay well and thrive.
We are so excited to share with you the lovely and heartfelt words of Anjanette below after she observed a workshop a few weeks ago in New York City. Anjanette is the Founder & CEO of SKY and LIVI a jewelry company that empowers women battling cancer by transforming their hair lost in chemo into their very own personal lab-grown diamond. SKY and LIVI has partnered with LGFB and will be donating $100 from the sale of every diamond, and $10 from every bracelet sold to the program in 2013.
Thank you Anjanette for everything you do for the program!
“Last week I had the amazing opportunity to be an observer at a LGFB Workshop at the Hope Lodge in NYC. To say that this experience was special is an understatement. I witnessed four strangers walk into a room with one thing in common - they all had cancer. They had varying personalities, in different stages of treatment and places emotionally, but all walked out of the workshop with another thing in common - HOPE…accented with a beautiful smile of course! Seeing each woman transform themselves before our eyes was magical. Elizabeth, my dear friend and Sarcoma survivor attended with me and we both were so moved to witness this moment. It was even more clear to me how important a role LGFB plays. The act of these four beautiful women transforming themselves and taking the time to learn with other women who are “like them” is something that just can’t be measured. I’m so honored to be a small part in helping LGFB do what they do.”
Want to help Look Good, Feel Better continue to help women feel beautiful and look better every day? Vote for us on the EcoTools Gives Back, Living Beautifully contest and we could win up at $75,000 in grant money from EcoTools.
The contest runs from now until July 5 and you can vote on the EcoTools Facebook page up to FIVE times per day! Happy voting!
Look Good Feel Better is dedicated to improving the self-esteem and quality of life of people undergoing treatment for cancer.