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When cancer strikes, the treatment often includes chemotherapy, which can bring side effects of dry skin and hair loss. A new, nationwide program is helping women go into their cancer treatments prepared for these side effects, and with confidence. KSMU's Jennifer Moore reports.
UPCOMING LOOK GOOD, FEEL BETTER SESSIONS (RSVP REQUIRED):
Cox Hulston Cancer Center-May 19, June 23, July 28, August 25, September 29, October 27, November 24, December 15.
St. John's Cancer Center-May 5, June 9, July 7, August 4, September 8, October 6, November 3, December 1.
Ozarks Medical Center, Shaw Building-May 27, June 24, July 29, August 26, September 30, October 28, November 25.
Missouri Ozarks Community Health-May 19
St.John's Lebanon-May 5, May 19, June 2, June 16, July 7, July 21, August 4, August 18, September 8, September 15, October 6 and 20, November 3 and 17, December 1 and 15.
A handful of women waits anxiously in the lobby of the Hulston Cancer Center in Springfield.
One finally breaks the silence by asking another woman how many rounds of chemotheraphy she's undergone.
Donna Yarham says she had her first chemo session a week ago, and her second one is this afternoon.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago.
"The mammogram found mine," she says.
She's here with nine other women for the "Look Good, Feel Better" session. The sessions are sponsored by the American Cancer Society and are held in various hospitals and clinics through out the country.
The free event shows female cancer patients how to care for their skin and nails during chemotherapy. It also teaches them how to choose and care for a wig since hair loss is a common side effect of the treatment.
Yarham tells me she's come to today's session because she doesn't know what she'll look like a month or two from now.
"I think the loss of hair is the hardest. That's hard to imagine, although I got my wig this morning."
"What's it look like?"
"This is it!"
"It looks beautiful!"
I didn't realize she was actually wearing her new wig. Even though her natural hair hasn't fallen out yet, she says she's trying to stay one step ahead.
"I just got it fitted a few minutes ago. So, I'm happy with it. I want to be ready for this, because it will be traumatic."
"Well, you look beautiful."
As the women enter the conference room, each one receives a large, red make-up bag. Inside are creams and cosmetics by Estee Lauder and Lancome, among other brands.
One woman takes off her wig and puts it on the table in front of her. Her smile invites the others to do the same.
A volunteer cosmetologist guides the women through applying the moisturizer, concealer and foundation found in the make-up bags. The women begin to relax and laugh, chatting about how their lives have changed since the moment their doctors sat them down and told them they have cancer.
Cosmetologist Vanessa Thomas says the sessions address both the physical and emotional aspects of cancer at the same time.
Thomas said patients receiving chemotherapy treatments experience more than just hair loss.
The Look Good, Feel Better sessions are an ongoing free service provided by the American Cancer Society. To learn more about upcoming sessions in your area--including Springfield, Ava and West Plains--you can call 1-800-395-LOOK, or visit our website, ksmu.org, where you can also view a slideshow of this particular session.
For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.