Alberta Cancer Foundation

The Look Good Food Better Program Gives Women Their Sense of Self Back

Illustration by Dushan Milic

Look good feel better (LGFB) believes that the best medicine doesn’t always come in a bottle. Recognizing how a diagnosis of cancer can rob a woman of her sense of self, LGFB, originally created by the beauty industry 25 years ago, helps women with cancer feel like themselves again.

At the heart of LGFB is a complimentary beauty workshop that supports the emotional and psychological sides of cancer. “The workshop helps renew a feeling of womanhood,” says Michelle Pilon, Western Canada’s Regional LGFB Manager. “It’s a safe and welcoming environment for women dealing with similar issues and facing many of the same challenges. Being diagnosed with cancer is the common theme in the room. But [participants] get to put that aside somewhat and play and have a really wonderful couple of hours dedicated to them at a time when you can only imagine how intense the journey is.”

“The workshop helps renew a feeling of womanhood.” —Michelle Pilon, Western Canada’s Regional LGFB Manager

The two-hour workshop offers women with cancer valuable tools and techniques to take control over how they look and, ultimately, how they feel. The first hour focuses on skin care and makeup and the second is dedicated to scalp and head coverings. Participants are given a complimentary kit with information, cosmetics and skin care products.

They are also taught signature makeup steps and skills, like how to draw eyebrows, which volunteer Cindy Kelly emphasizes as essential. “It’s going to take time and practice, but you’re going to want to know where your eyebrow is. You want to be able to just go shop and not have anyone look at you. You want to be able to just have a conversation and not have to tell anybody your story because you’re wearing a turban and so, therefore, you must be sick.”

Kelly was first a participant in the LGFB program 14 years ago. “I got so much out of that program,” she says. “All the women were in a safe group to take their wigs or turbans off as they were putting on their makeup. People came in feeling down and out and scared, but when we left the program, we were pretty elated.”

Now a volunteer program leader, Kelly gets to watch participants leave feeling beautiful. “Women who come in with no makeup and a turban now have makeup on, with a foxy little wig. They look 15 years younger and they’re so shocked. You’re glowing because you feel pretty. You feel normal,” she says.

Kelly also hopes participants bring their new sense of empowerment with them to inspire others who are dealing with cancer. “I tell my ladies that when they go in for treatment, they should try to put on some lipstick, rock their bald head or put on a wig, and put on a little blush,” she says. “Go in on the ground floor, where all the patients are, looking good. Go in and work it. You’ll take the fear out of it. You’ll inspire people to think of this whole journey as something different.”

Michelle Pilon echoes this sentiment, and she believes that LGFB can be a major influence on women’s attitudes, hope and optimism, all of which impact cancer outcomes. “Participants come in and join a larger group of women who are experiencing the same thing, and they regain their sense of self,” says Pilon. The workshop is offered at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, and all women and teenagers with a diagnosis of cancer are welcome to attend.

To enroll, phone 1-800-914-5665 or visit lgfb.ca.

A Few Essential Ingredients to Feeling Beautiful

Colour

“Blush takes that sickly colour out of your skin,” says Cindy Kelly, volunteer program leader with LGFB. “You might wash your hair and put on a little concealer when you notice bags under your eyes. Then you put on a little blush and a little lip gloss and you’re good to go.”

Eyebrows

Kelly emphasizes the importance of learning how to draw on eyebrows. “If you’ve been told you’re going to lose your hair, that’s such a fear for [women]. You can cover that up, but as you start to lose your eyebrows, your whole identity seems to disappear. To be shown how to put on your eyebrows — that’s huge.”

Scalp and Head Coverings

“Are you a wig person? A hat person? Just rock it, own it. Wigs and hair alternatives make such a difference,” says Kelly. LGFB participants are given information at the workshop on where to find wigs.