I retired my Podiatry private practice eight years ago and since that time, I have injected my energy into raising 3 sons and decided that any extra hours I had could best be used in a volunteering capacity.
I started volunteering with Look Good Feel Better in 2016 and the cause was close to my heart. A friend of mine was undergoing chemotherapy and told me of her experiences at one of the workshops. She said “the benefits were overwhelming” and I thought, that’s where I want to be. I love the idea of being involved in that sort of positivity. I enjoy knowing that we are making a significant difference to the participant’s lives, even if it is only for a matter of two and a half hours.
Look Good Feel Better is special because participants receive an unexpected bonus amidst the unpleasant array of medical appointments and side effects associated with this relentless disease. Having the workshops run by volunteers, and cosmetic companies committing to the program through the donation of product is very kind and special in itself. In this world the word ‘free’ is seldom used, but at Look Good Feel Better it is used all the time!
When we welcome a participant to a workshop, we notice the emotional and physical heaviness they often carry with them; it is almost palpable. Quite often you can see them using their hands to physically cover their hairless heads and faces, but throughout the workshop their demeanor changes. They start to experiment with the products. They learn techniques to cover the blemishes, changes to their skin tone, and dark under-eye circles. They are delighted to know how to draw eyebrows on. They see the benefits of accentuating eyes, brows and lips on a complexion that has been blanched and significantly altered by the side effects of treatment. At this point they appear relieved and have hope that they can feel almost normal going out in public again, without others staring and recognising they have cancer.
The participants are then completely overjoyed when they see the limitless headwear options available to them. I love to see them grab the bamboo hats and try them on, overwhelmed with their softness and comfort. And then there is the ‘fringe’ that can be worn under a bandana or hat. They say “who could imagine?” and “nobody would know!”. Finally, they are given the opportunity to interact with other kindred spirits. Only those who have experienced cancer could relate to the physical changes and challenges they face as a result of their treatment. They no longer feel alone in this journey and our participants leave the workshop very happy, confident and excited to try their treasure trove of ideas and products.
I encourage others to volunteer, as a commitment to Look Good Feel Better is an achievable voluntary position. To momentarily and selflessly contribute to something positive to someone else’s life at a time when those people are most vulnerable is truly rewarding.