July 28, 2008

Cancer Patients Learn to Look Good, Feel Better

By Jennifer Calhoun, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

Jul. 28--All of her life, she has had long hair.

The good kind, too -- strong and thick, with wisps of curls framing her face.

But in the next few months, chemotherapy will take what's left of Crystal Oxendine's once waist-length hair.

Oxendine, who is 35, has ovarian cancer. Last week, she attended Cape Fear Valley Cancer Center's Look Good, Feel Better seminar to find a wig that might be right for her when she loses her hair.

"I've always had long hair," Oxendine said as her friend Sonya Brown applied foundation to Oxendine's face. "I want a different look now. Something funky."

The Look Good, Feel Better program is held at 9 a.m. the third Monday of each month in the conference room of the Cancer Center. It is a free program offered to any woman undergoing cancer treatment.

It is sponsored by the American Cancer Society as a way to help improve the women's self-image and quality of life "by teaching them beauty techniques to help them cope with the appearance-related consequences of cancer treatment," according to the American Cancer Society's Web site.

During the program, participants receive consultations from volunteer cosmetologists, along with bags of free makeup and a wig that suits their face and style.

If they don't find a wig during the seminar, the women are eligible to receive a $100 voucher at a local wig shop.

Sheila Drummond, a cosmetologist at Unique Hair Creations, 2112 Murchison Road, has been volunteering with the program for four years. In that time, she has found that many women are most afraid of losing their hair.

"We love our hair," Drummond said.

"We can put on makeup, and maybe make some problems go away, but it's like the Bible says, 'Your hair is your glory,'" she said, quoting a verse from 1Corinthians.

Mary Schroeder, who is suffering from rectal cancer, said hair may be more important to women than other physical features.

"I think, basically, it's a vanity thing for women," said Schroeder, who has long, brown hair she expects to lose in the next few months when she progresses with chemotherapy. "Losing your hair is like losing a part of yourself. It's a big part of who you are and your appearance."

Drummond said the program helps ease patients through some of the more personal aspects of cancer treatment.

"Everyone that comes in, they leave feeling better," Drummond said. "They seem so comfortable, and they're always grateful."

But that could be because cancer changes you emotionally, as well as physically, said Oxendine, who said she relies heavily on her faith in God to deal with the stress and the fear.

"Thirty-five is too young," she said. "I will see."

When a honey-colored wig was placed on her head, Oxendine looked doubtful and a little worried.

Still, she managed a smile.

"Here we go," she said. "I better put my seat belt on."

Staff writer Jennifer Calhoun can be reached at [email protected] or 486-3595.


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