A few years ago my life was touched by a cancer diagnosis.
During my recovery I decided as soon as I was well enough and back to work I would volunteer some time out of my business to give something back.
The care I received was fantastic and if I could help in some way I wanted to try.
I had a vague idea about a charity called Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) and I knew I could use my skills as an experienced beauty therapist and skincare expert so I signed up as a volunteer and took part in some workshops.
What is LGFB?
LGFB is an international charity operating in 25 countries worldwide. It was introduced to the UK in 1994 and offers a unique programme of free skincare and make-up workshops in over 70 hospitals and cancer care centres around the country.
Working alongside other major charities it provides practical and effective support to women being treated for any kind of cancer. The programme is ‘product neutral, free and non-medical’.
Volunteers are all trained beauty consultants, make-up artists and beauty therapists. The charity is also supported by over 40 member companies of the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Foundation who provide generous funds and donations.
Each lady on the workshop receives a substantial and generous gift bag of donated skincare, make-up and fragrance supplied by the member companies.
For those ladies unable to attend workshops there is an LGFB Confidence Kit you can order and receive through the post with advice on wig selection, scarf tying and head coverings, as well as hand and nail care. The charity also runs special workshops for teenage patients.
Sounds great doesn’t it? Let me tell you woman to woman how it felt to be involved.
I arrived at the hospital and was introduced to the other volunteers. There were five of us on this occasion as I was on observation. I got involved with welcoming the ladies at the door.
Some had just got off the bus from home or driven themselves and some were actually patients in the hospital coming from the wards where they were having treatment.
A few were clearly feeling vulnerable, one or two were abrupt and unsure while others were up for it and cheerful. All of them were coping with the life-changing experience of living with cancer.
I think my favourite part of each workshop was the look on the ladies’ faces when their initial reticence was replaced by smiles and surprise at the realisation that the toiletry bag In front of them, full of products, was theirs to keep.
After a brief introduction the workshop leader took the ladies through a 12-step skin and make-up programme.
Tips and advice about faking eyebrows during hair loss and managing skin issues arising from chemo and radio therapy treatment were discussed and one-on-one help was given by the remaining volunteers to those who wanted it.
In the coffee break we all stood back and let the ladies talk. I came to understand that this is another powerful aspect of the experience.
There was a growing sense of camaraderie amongst the group. Lipstick colours and foundation shades were being swapped, wigs came off, headscarfs were slipped aside.
People definitely did discuss their medical status but they also talked about life in general and most seemed just a bit more confident and walked a little taller when they left.
Seeing the industry that I have worked in for my whole career creating this valuable and nurturing support made me so proud, and I confess I had to turn away a few times and compose myself.
We so often hear negative, vacuous connotations associated with the beauty industry but you really can’t underestimate the power of looking good and feeling better for your self esteem and confidence.
This is a perfect example of that.
‘Cancer may not have taken my life but it took my identity.’
The annual fundraising week for the charity is in June. For details of workshops and more information see www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk