Whether it’s heartfelt anecdotes or inspiring triumphs, the Scarves Dot Net gals love to share stories — especially when they’re incredibly touching. That’s why we’re starting a new series called SDN Spotlight. From influential bloggers to community leaders, we’ve scoured the blogosphere for the most inspiring men and women. So far, we’ve had the opportunity to hear from eight incredible individuals about how cancer has affected their lives.
Today, we’re honored to bring you our interview with Louanne Roark. Louanne is the executive director of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, a position she has held since 2005. The Personal Care Products Council Foundation originated the Look Good Feel Better program in 1988, when the first pilot programs were offered at Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, DC, and at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Louanne lives in Alexandria, VA.
SDN: Please briefly describe the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and its journey to starting the “Look Good Feel Better” program.
Louanne: The Personal Care Products Council Foundation is the charitable arm of the Personal Care Products industry. The PCPF has a long history of supporting women and women’s health topics.The story of Look Good Feel Better is one of both opportunity and hope. In 1987, a doctor was caring for a woman with cancer who was struggling to come to grips with the changes in her appearance due to her treatment. The doctor contacted a friend who happened to be in the cosmetics industry to ask whether they would be willing to provide her with a bedside consultation on using makeup and other products to help make her feel like herself again. Immediately following that consultation the doctor noticed a remarkable change in his patient — from her outlook, her confidence, and her desire to beat her diagnosis.
From that one encounter, Look Good Feel Better was born. Soon, the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the Professional Beauty Association began collaborating to develop the program that we have today and that reaches millions of women around the world with the same promise — to help them once again feel normal in a life that is by no means normal.
SDN: How and/or why did you get involved with the Personal Care Products Council Foundation?
Louanne: I was working for the Council’s meetings/events department at the time and got involved with Look Good Feel Better in 1990 after watching with interest as the program was developed. My grandmother died from colon cancer, so I had the personal experience of watching her struggle with her disease. I wanted to do something to help other women find ways to cope with and manage their disease and the challenges of treatment. Look Good Feel Better presented the perfect opportunity to do that.
SDN: The LGFB mission is to improve self-esteem for women undergoing cancer treatments and to improve self-image through beauty sessions. We understand that a typical session includes tips about makeup, hair, nail care, and styling. Can you discuss, for our readers, how this creates a sense of support, confidence, courage, and community?
Louanne: Our national research among women with cancer and those who are cancer-free demonstrates that for the vast majority of women, how they look has a direct impact on how they feel. When a woman begins cancer treatment she often faces a cascade of dramatic appearance-related side-effects — from changes in her skin and nails, to weight loss or gain, to the loss of hair, including her eyelashes and eyebrows. Those changes leave women feeling isolated from family, friends, and colleagues, and have a negative impact on personal relationships.
Bringing women together in a safe, trusting atmosphere is an important demonstration to these women that they are not alone, and that they can overcome the appearance-related side effects of treatment. Our workshops impart a lot of great information and advice on the practical application of makeup, wigs, and turbans, plus clothing styling tips to mitigate the changes in outward appearance due to treatment. What’s more, the women around the table have the opportunity to share their own experiences — to talk, to laugh, to vent, to connect, and ultimately to bond with one another.
SDN: What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant to attend an event?
Louanne: I would tell them that they are not alone. The vast majority of our workshop participants are hesitant to attend at first. But once they’ve experienced LGFB, almost 100% say they would recommend the program to a friend or family member undergoing cancer treatment. We try hard to create a trusting atmosphere for our participants. No one is ever asked or required to share anything about their experience unless they choose to. It is all about giving women the tips, tools, and control to find themselves in the mirror again.
SDN: Drawing on your experiences with LGFB, are there any assumptions or misconceptions about cancer that you would like to shed some light on?
Louanne: Cancer takes a lot of things, both physically and mentally. But it doesn’t change who a woman (or man) is at their core. It may shake their confidence and rattle their self-esteem, but the power of the human spirit is an amazing thing. For the most part, people with cancer want to be treated like they were before their diagnosis. But due to the changes in their appearance, others often can’t help but affix the “cancer patient” label to them. It becomes a battle between what these people feel inside and what they look like on the outside. So, my message would be that: Yes, cancer changes you in both obvious and subtle ways — but you can still be yourself and feel like yourself by creating normalcy in your life. Spend time with your loved ones, keep going to that yoga class, talk to your friends, and continue to do as many of the things you have always done and enjoyed as possible. Be kind to yourself, and address and control the things you can so that you can focus your energy and endurance to overcome your cancer.
SDN: LGFB has some amazing corporate partnerships. Can you share a few opportunities that allow consumers to get involved and help raise funds for LGFB?
Louanne: We have a number of terrific corporate supporters that raise funds and make it possible for Look Good Feel Better to help 50,000 women each year. These supporters help us reach women with cancer, their family, friends, and medical professionals, and provide education about what they can do to help themselves or others who may be facing a cancer diagnosis. There are over 20 companies who partner with us each year, and each of them offers unique opportunities to get involved. The best way to see the full scope of support is to visit our web site at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org and check out our corporate partners and supporters on the site.
Louanne: In addition to wigs, there are many terrific, stylish alternatives for addressing hair loss during cancer treatment. Each woman’s sense of style, comfort, and creativity is different, so I encourage experimentation with the many available options to find the ones that she loves and are right for her lifestyle, time availability, energy level, and other important factors in her life. It’s an opportunity to have fun and try something new!
A special thanks to Louanne for taking the time to tell us more about this incredible foundation!
Image sources: lookgoodfeelbetter.org, wellbeingofwomen.org.uk, zimbio.com