In November, the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association Foundation (CCFTA Foundation) rebranded as Beauty Gives Back. The organization has been running the Look Good Feel Better program for 23 years, and it also launched FacingCancer.ca, an online community for women with cancer, five years ago. But with the name change, the foundation signaled a renewed focus on tackling what it has dubbed the “Cancer Blues,” defined as the emotional distress caused by cancer and its treatment.
It’s an issue that Sherry Abbott, executive director of Beauty Gives Back, understands first-hand: A survivor of stage 4 ovarian cancer herself, she was once given three months to live, but has been cancer-free since 1990. Now, with the Beauty Gives Back campaign ramping up, we spoke with Abbott about the organization’s mission.
Why did the foundation decide to focus on the Cancer Blues? When a woman is diagnosed with cancer, the immediate focus is on treating the tumour. Her emotional needs are often pushed aside as she concentrates on her physical needs. However, we know a diagnosis can unleash as many emotional symptoms as physical, and we believe women deserve treatment for this in the same way they receive treatment for the tumour they are fighting. It is our goal that by 2020, every woman diagnosed with cancer in Canada recognizes the Cancer Blues may be part of her experience and knows there is support available to help her face the emotional challenges of the disease and its treatment.
Why aren’t women getting the support they need to cope with the Cancer Blues? Cancer patients rarely acknowledge this issue for fear of being labeled superficial or vain. A 2011 study of head and neck cancer patients at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found that 75 percent of participants acknowledged “concerns or embarrassment about one or more types of bodily changes at some point during treatment.” We know those who have support for this are able to face the challenges of the disease, during treatment and beyond, with more resilience. By naming this part of the cancer journey, we validate it. By validating it, we give women permission to ask for help. For every woman who attends our Look Good Feel Better workshops, there are nine others who don’t, and we want to change that.
Are there other organizations or groups who provide support for this? We are the only national organization dedicated to helping women manage appearance-related effects of cancer and its treatment, but there are other resources available. We are proud partners of organizations like Wellspring and the Canadian Cancer Society, in addition to the 118 hospitals and cancer care centres across the country who host our Look Good Feel Better workshops.
What campaigns do you have planned to raise awareness? Your timing is perfect as we’ve just launched the “Wink If You’re With Us” campaign. On Wink Day—June 18—we want Canadians to make a video of themselves (and some friends) wearing blue eye makeup, and to let everyone know they’re doing it to support Beauty Gives Back and the fight against the Cancer Blues. Don’t forget to give the camera a wink to show us your blue eye makeup! While the #winkday campaign will be largely a social media event, friends in the GTA can visit us at the Wink Mobile, which will be travelling to various locations around Toronto from June 16–19, providing blue eye makeup applications and taking videos/pictures. We’ll also be doing product giveaways and handing out info about the Cancer Blues. [Follow Beauty Gives Back on Facebook or Twitter to find the Wink Mobile.]
What role does Look Good Feel Better play in the fight against the Cancer Blues? Since being founded in 1992, the Look Good Feel Better program has helped over 160,000 women with its free two-hour cosmetics and hair-alternative workshops. Women with any type of cancer undergoing any type of treatment are invited to attend. They each receive a kit full of cosmetics and personal care products that our volunteers use to show them how to regain control over their appearance and feel more like themselves again. Participants learn about everything from caring for dry skin made sensitive by treatment, to recreating the look of brows and lashes lost during treatment. Workshops are run by our team of more than 1,600 industry-trained volunteers from coast to coast: makeup artists, aestheticians, beauty advisors and hair-alternative experts who selflessly give their time and share their skills to help women beat the Cancer Blues.
How do beauty advisors and other industry experts get involved in the program? We are always welcoming new volunteers to join our team. Specifically, we have opportunities for: beauty advisors, hair-alternative specialists, host site volunteers and program ambassadors. The volunteer commitment is just three hours a month and we provide specialized training. [For more information on volunteering for Look Good Feel Better, visit lgfbvolunteer.ca.]