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Program helps women with cancer look, feel better

Sanford Regional Hospital Worthington education manager Kathi Haberman (reflected in mirror) shows off a few accessories utilized in the "Look Good Feel Better" program available for patients at the facility.

WORTHINGTON -- When a woman is diagnosed with cancer, one of the early questions weighing on her mind is the impact required chemotherapy or radiation treatments will have on her body.

While research continues to find ways to alleviate some of the repercussions of cancer and its treatment, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and various cosmetology groups have partnered on a program to maintain and boost self-image and confidence in women undergoing treatment.

The Look Good Feel Better program has been offered through ACS for 20 years, but it wasn't until a couple of years ago that group sessions were available to cancer patients locally.

The one-night class is offered four times a year, according to Kathi Haberman, education manager at Sanford Regional Hospital Worthington. In the more than two years the hospital has offered the class, however, Haberman said it has only gotten one or two female cancer patients to register. There are many more out there that could benefit from the program, she added.

"We've never had a big group, but I think (the program is) designed to be a supportive group effort," Haberman said.

The next Look Good Feel Better program will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 27 at the Southwest Minnesota Radiation Center, 1018 Sixth Ave., Worthington. To attend, women must first register with ACS at 1-888-535-4227.

Haberman said the class is free and open to women newly diagnosed with cancer, those who have already begun treatment and those who recently completed radiation or chemotherapy. Daughters and friends are encouraged to attend the program as well to offer the support and assist the patient as needed.

"We encourage family members to come with them so it becomes more of a party," said Judy Johnson, a Worthington cosmetologist who volunteered to lead the program when it began in the community. "It's very emotionally healing. It's one of the most positive things that can be done for someone who is on chemo or radiation."

ACS partnered with the Personal Care Products Council and the National Cosmetology Association to establish the Look Good Feel Better program. All of the makeup and skin care products are donated by name-brand cosmetic companies.

Each cancer patient attending the class receives a makeup kit valued at more than $250 and filled with everything from skin care items to foundation, blushes and eye shadows.

"We go through a 12-step process from cleansing to finished makeup and how to take care of the skin," said Johnson. "It's amazing the transformation you see. A lot of them come in without makeup and they walk out with their head held high -- they feel good about themselves."

In addition to assisting the cancer patients with skin care and makeup, Johnson demonstrates the use of wigs and talks about wearing hats and scarves.

"I show them how to tie a scarf around their head so it doesn't look like the basic chemo turban," Johnson said.

Haberman said the work Johnson has done to make the women feel better and more confident as they journey through cancer has been amazing.

"I think it's wonderful," Haberman said. "I was absolutely amazed at the good job Judy does and the response of the participants.

"Hearing the response of the participants has made me feel good that we offer the program here," she added. "I just wish we could get more people."

Haberman was quick to say that without Johnson volunteering her time, the Look Good Feel Better program would not have been possible in Worthington. A licensed cosmetologist is required to lead the classes and must complete a training program through ACS to become certified.

Johnson said she volunteered for personal reasons.

"I've been a hairdresser for 34 years and I had a family member who went through chemotherapy and lost her hair," Johnson said. "There was nothing at that time for her. We had to order wigs out of catalogs and there were no programs for skin care or how to deal with the ravages of chemo on your skin, nails and scalp.

"When this program came to Worthington I jumped on the wagon and went with it," she added. "It's very rewarding. I was pretty excited to be able to help people with it."

Johnson, now a part-time teacher at Avalon, has been the only cosmetologist working with the program in Worthington so far, but she said anyone else who is interested in volunteering is welcome.

"They have to go through some training ... and go to a session to see how a session is done," she said, adding that training upgrades are conducted online.

If women are not able to attend the Look Good Feel Better program later this month, Haberman said the next program will be offered on Oct. 26.

For more information about the Look Good Feel Better program, contact ACS at 1-800-227-2345.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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