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News Room: ENQUIRER: Simple makeovers lift patients' spirits

Cosmetologists donate talents to hospitalized cancer victims

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EDGEWOOD — In the 21/2 years since her cancer diagnosis, Connie Doyle has been no stranger to radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.

On Monday, though, the 57-year-old Burlington woman was able to focus on her appearance instead of the lung cancer that has her hospitalized during the holidays.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten up and wanted to put makeup on, but I looked in the mirror and thought, ‘Why bother?’ ” Doyle said as visitors admired the results of her cosmetic makeover, courtesy of the American Cancer Society.

“Today, I feel really good about myself. For the first time in 21/2 years, I feel pretty.”

Six licensed cosmetologists donated their time Monday afternoon to help brighten the spirits of Doyle and three other women who are being treated for cancer in St. Elizabeth Healthcare South’s oncology unit. In the evening, the cosmetologists also shared tips with outpatients on everything from how to recreate eyebrows lost to chemotherapy to the proper care of a bald scalp.

“Cancer can rob a woman of her strength and energy, even her appetite,” said Lisa Meier, health initiatives representative for the Northern Kentucky branch of the American Cancer Society. “But it doesn’t have to take away her self-confidence.”

The free makeovers are part of the American Cancer Society’s “Look Good ... Feel Better” program, which has taught women how to deal with the  appearance-related side effects of cancer treatments for two decades.

The volunteer beauty professionals leave each woman with colorful scarves, as well as cosmetics donated by the National Cosmetic Foundation and step-by-step instructions on how to achieve their new look.

“When you’re not feeling well, sometimes if you just put a little bit of makeup on, you feel so much better about yourself,” said cosmetologist Barbara Agee, as she applied Doyle’s makeup.

This year, Northern Kentucky University senior nursing students Allie Reis and Morgan Young, both 23, approached the American Cancer Society about offering makeovers to women who are hospitalized in St. Elizabeth’s oncology unit over the holidays.

“My friend was hospitalized awhile ago, and I just noticed that the one thing that made her feel better was getting her hair washed and putting on makeup,” Young said. “It really boosted her self-esteem.”

As Christmas neared last December, Young and Reis came in on one of their off days to wash and style patients’ hair and paint their nails in the medical surgery unit where they worked. It was such a hit with their patients that the American Cancer Society jumped at their suggestion to offer the free service to female cancer patients who are hospitalized during the holidays.

“I think this program is absolutely wonderful,” said Lakeside Park resident Deborah Stuart, a lung cancer patient who’s been hospitalized since Friday after developing pneumonia.

“I’ve been sick off and on for three years, and there are a lot of days I just don’t feel like putting makeup on. Now I’m ready to go out and show off my new look.”

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