When Cancer Survivors Look Good, They Feel Better

4 min read  |  February 22, 2024  | 

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) workshops help women manage the appearance-related effects of cancer to focus on getting better and moving through the cancer journey. They boost the morale and self-esteem of cancer warriors like Jasmine Santiago.

“The workshop started as a makeup lesson, but was so much more,” says 44-year-old Jasmine, who survived stage three colon cancer and is now battling stage two triple negative breast cancer. “I met other women who were just like me – lost and scared. It was comforting to know I was not alone.”

Group of women at a makeup workshop, held at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami.

Workshops provide a safe space

The team at Sylvester works with people from the LGFB Foundation and the Professional Beauty Association to provide small, in-person workshops. Volunteer beauty professionals give female participants tips and tools for skin and nail care, makeup application, wig care and scarf wraps in a comfortable, supportive atmosphere. Questions – such as how to fill in or draw in your eyebrows or camouflage particular pigmentation – are answered firsthand.

The workshops are free of charge and open to all women with cancer undergoing treatment in the community. Participants also receive a free makeup kit tailored to their complexion with brand-name cosmetics to use during the session and to take home.

“The workshops provide a safe space where women can let their guard down,” says Tangela Hillery, coordinator of Sylvester’s cancer resource room and volunteer services. “They can focus on themselves instead of their diagnosis and begin to heal from the inside out and outside in. The women are so grateful for this opportunity during such a difficult time in their lives.” 

Delivering compassion and building a community

Jasmine Santiago applies eyeliner during a makeup workshop at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami

Participants connect with other women coping with cancer treatment – those about to go through it, those experiencing it and those who are survivors. Although they are all ages, at different stages and have a variety of cancers, they bond quickly and become a community. 

The experience was invaluable for Santiago, who lost her mother and many family members to cancer and needed a support system. She was in the beginning stages of her own treatment and could exchange information on physicians, protocols and resources. She says she better understood what to expect and was better prepared to deal with it.  

“It is amazing to be part of a group of women who are sharing similar journeys,” says Santiago, who is still in touch with many of them. “We encouraged each other to fight and find the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Santiago says it was just as rewarding to help others as to receive the help herself.

“I am a believer in paying it forward,” says Santiago. “It takes a village.”

Taking time for yourself

As the participants focus on self-care, they are reminded that it is okay to want to look beautiful despite their challenges. It often gives them the extra courage to get out of bed or leave the house. Santiago recalls the simple excitement of learning to wrap a turban so she didn’t have to wear a baseball cap when she lost her hair.

“There have been many times in my cancer journey when I have not felt well mentally, emotionally or spiritually,” says Santiago. “When I put on makeup, head scarves or nice clothes, I actually do feel better.”

Inspiring others through advocacy

After learning about the top-notch physicians and cancer-related resources available, Santiago switched her care from another cancer center to Sylvester. She has advocated on social media and provided hope and inspiration to cancer patients. She was chosen as a patient ambassador and will represent Sylvester in a panel discussion at this month’s Personal Care Product Council annual meeting.

“It is my honor to represent Sylvester,” says Santiago. “Sylvester has provided me with so many opportunities that have helped me heal through this difficult journey, and I look forward to sharing them on the panel and with women everywhere.”

For more information on Sylvester’s Look Good Feel Better workshops, visit the Cancer Support Services website.

Debby Teich is a contributor for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Tags: cancer care in Miami, Look Good Feel Better, Self-care, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

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