Looking good, feeling better…
Many years ago, I had a rash across my face and felt miserable. I didn’t want to go out the door. Of course the rash got better and I was fine, but at the time it occurred to me how difficult it must be for women’s self esteem to be facially challenged and so I rang the local public hospital social workers to offer my services with any cosmetic care for any patients.
Serendipity arrived in bucketloads. The hospital was just debating whether to start the internationally famous Look Good Feel Better programme for cancer patients They asked if I was willing to be the volunteer State Coordinator for Tasmania. I said yes in my ignorance.
But my naivety mattered little because LGFB was such a well established programme that I had a set form to follow, cosmetics companies to rely on for supplies and retail stores providing volunteer beauticians for my teams. I did this for ten years, meeting with more courage than you can possibly imagine.
In the depths of despair, cancer treatment ravaging their skin, hair and self-esteem, the women (our clients, never patients) would come for a great day of spoiling. We would teach them skin care, work with them as they applied their makeup, teaching them all the different ways to tie scarves and bandanas round their heads and have enormous fun as they tried on wigs in a million different styles and colours. They were given a huge bag to take home, with all the products we had used for each them. Our instruction to them was that it was not to be shoved in a corner but that they were to paint a bit of a masterpiece every day in the journey to wellness. Look how well you feel today, we would say!
Those women left feeling a million bucks – for one day they could look in the mirror and feel better because what they saw looked fabulous. Skin tone evened out, colour on their cheeks, lips lusciously outlined, eyes delicately shaded and lined, eyebrows sketched where there may have been none. Utterly transforming and vital in raising the hope and confidence that they could beat the disease. They would arrange to meet family members for lunch, dinner, coffee – eager to show how wonderfully ‘normal’ they looked. They would often tell us how intimidated they or their friends and family were by the effects of the cancer and this was one way to thumb their nose at the disease.
More recently my eighty eight year old mother has been in hospital (not with cancer, I might add). She’s always been fastidious with her appearance and hated not having her hair done or her makeup on and so I began to go in every morning and comb her hair up for her and apply just a little makeup – enough to take away her frailty and let her see herself in the mirror so that she could say ‘Gee, I’m not looking so bad after all.’
As I walked down the corridors of the wards, seeing elderly women looking worn and tired, I so desperately wanted to go and do their hair, put on a bit of lippy, maybe powder or blusher. It is of course not possible, for health reasons if nothing else. Everyone must have their own personal kits and besides, some of them may not have welcomed the intrusion.
But I have to say, when I get up in the morning I most often look absolutely awful. By the time I emerge from the house, it matters to me to paint the kind of face that gives me that ‘good’ feeling, So that I can face the world on my terms. It’s not facile or shallow. It’s exactly the same as that cancer patient who gets to look in the mirror and say ‘Gee, today I do really feel better!’
If you or a loved one has cancer, please contact your local hospital anywhere in the world and enrol in an LGFB day. You’ll absolutely love it! Trust me, this is from my mouth to your ear!
In addition, if you would like to contribute to funds to be donated to Cancer Research UK and if you LOVE HISTORICAL FICTION, can I suggest that you invest in this fab compendium of stories.
Historical Tales – the title says it all, so run don’t walk, people.