New program helps women deal with appearance-related challenges of cancer

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Raj Makkar, manager of the oncology clinic at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre, and Darlene Holmes, cancer patient navigator with the Colchester East Hants Health Authority, look over some of the items, including a wig, that are in the Look Good Feel Better program kit. The free workshop is being offered a few times at the Truro hospital and helps women who have cancer deal with appearance-related side effects of their illness. Monique Chiasson –Truro Daily News

TRURO – Debbie Stead appreciates the precious moments in life when she can feel 'normal.'

The Truro woman, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer, recently participated in a new initiative at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre called Look Good Feel Better.

The non-profit national program is dedicated to helping women and female teenagers deal with appearance-related side effects of cancer. For Stead, 49, it was a huge benefit.

“It’s very isolating when you are sick,” she said. “Your life is spent in doctors’ offices and the worst for me was when I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes (and) I looked like a cancer patient.

“It was nice to go somewhere that the focus wasn’t on what’s wrong with me.”

Stead underwent chemotherapy treatments late last year, had a mastectomy and is now on drug treatments.

Participants in the Look Good Feel Better program must take advantage of the three-hour workshop within a year of their diagnosis and can only attend once. The free hands-on, step-by-step workshop is led by industry-trained volunteer cosmetic and hair alternative/wig specialists and teaches participants wig and skin care, how to properly wear scarves and skin care, to name a few.

Upcoming sessions in Truro are June 10, Sept. 9 and Dec. 9 and are limited to 10 people, who are also given a workshop kit to take home. 

Raj Makkar, manager of the oncology clinic at the hospital, agreed with Stead that the program offers a huge benefit to its participants because it connects with the participants’ overall well-being.

“The name sums it all up,” said Makkar. “It makes you feel better about yourself and gives the mindset of feeling better, which helps you cope and deal with things better.”

Darlene Holmes, cancer patient navigator with the Colchester East Hants Health Authority, said there are other benefits of having the program locally.

“Until now, women who could benefit from the program had to travel to Antigonish or Halifax,” said Holmes. “Some couldn’t afford to travel.”

Holmes anticipates the program will continue, and grow. She said it may increase to six times a year, from four times, if the sessions continue to have full attendance.

In Canada, the program began in Toronto in 1992 and has grown to 120 workshop sites across the country. In Atlantic Canada, the first program began in 1993 and has now grown to 19 sites in the four Atlantic provinces. 

Women can register for local workshops by calling 893-8818, Ext. 42549.

mchiasson@trurodaily.com

Twitter: tdnMonique

Organizations: Colchester East Hants Health Centre, Colchester East Hants Health Authority

Geographic location: TRURO, Atlantic Canada, Antigonish Toronto

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  • chief wiggam
    April 10, 2013 - 15:15

    good story daily news. keep up the good work Mr.Makkar.