There was nothing pleasant about Peggi Hudspith’s experience with breast cancer.
However, it was a “cool journey,” she said.
“It wasn’t so devastating that I couldn’t pick myself back up and get back in life and Karen (Dungan) was a huge part of that because she showed me that you actually could look good and feel better during and after cancer treatments,” Hudspith said.
Karen Dungan, stylist and colorist at Fountain of Beauty Salon and Spa in Temple, and Yolanda Mares, an aesthetician at the salon, have volunteered with the Look Good … Feel Better program for years. They’ve helped many women undergoing cancer treatments learn techniques that will improve their appearance while providing an emotional lift during a difficult time.
For Libby Harper Tomkins, Look Good … Feel Better gave her back her mother for a while. Sherrie Harper was a woman known for her style and she wasn’t interested in going out in public without looking her best.
The Fountain of Beauty has a room devoted to the Look Good … Feel Better program where women can have their wig styled in privacy. There also are prosthetics available, that up until recently were fitted by volunteer Gloria Waskow.
The Look Good … Feel Better program offers regular sessions in the board room at Temple’s Ronald McDonald House. Participants are introduced to makeup techniques that work for cancer patients. Women also try on wigs. Some will attempt to match their usual style and color, others may shoot for a whole new look. They also learn the different ways to wear scarves to cover their heads.
Dungan said she’ll meet woman through the program once or twice and usually never knows the outcome because she doesn’t know them personally.
Harper and Hudspith were different.
Dungan had known Harper, her husband, Barry, and their daughter, Libby, for years. Hudspith became a client of Dungan’s after they become acquainted through the Look Good … Feel Good program.
After her diagnosis, Hudspith prepared for the eventual loss of her hair by cutting it shorter in stages.
“One night I just said, ‘This is it’ and my husband and daughter just shaved it off,” Hudspith said. “We knew chemo was coming and chemo would take it.”
Hudspith began chemotherapy in June 2011 and was bald by August, plus she was losing her eyebrows and eyelashes.
A student in the Temple College RN program at the time of her diagnosis, Hudspith’s classmates threw her a hat and scarf party.
“I had a laundry basket full of scarves and I didn’t know what to do with them,” she said.
After learning about the Look Good … Feel Better program from the Scott & White Vasicek Cancer Treatment Center, Hudspith took the scarves to one of the sessions.
“Karen took the scarves and taught me how to coordinate them with my wigs and how to use them on their own,” Hudspith said. “I was also taught how to apply makeup to a face without eyebrows.”
Every woman wants to feel like a woman, but being a chemo patient is numbing and leaves you feeling everything but feminine, she said.
Look Good … Feel Better has the perfect name, because it’s accurate, Hudspith said.
“I told Karen one day ‘I don’t feel pretty, I need to come in,’” she said. “I felt beautiful when I left.”
Tomkins was 18 when her mother, Sherrie Harper, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and 20 when her mother died of the disease.
Harper wasn’t interested in becoming a poster child for breast cancer — no pink ribbons for her.
“She wanted to get the treatments and then move on,” Tomkins said.
Before she became ill, Harper never left her home without makeup, her hair styled and fashionably attired.
Looking her best was everything to her mother, Tomkins said.
“I never saw Sherrie when she wasn’t put together — she always looked amazing,” Dungan said.
After chemotherapy, Harper lost her hair, she could no longer use her makeup because of radiation treatments and she wasn’t about to leave her house without makeup.
Finding a wig Harper would accept was a task.
“She was so picky,” Tompkins said. “We’d look for hours.”
Getting a wig styled to complement her face and learning new makeup tricks, brought normalcy back to Harper’s world and gave her strength, Tomkins said.
“I can’t say enough on how much the program did for my mom.” Tomkins said. “The boost to her self-esteem was incredible.”
It also gave Tomkins the opportunity to spend time with her mother as they ran errands together.
“It was fun to have her back for a little bit,” she said.
Dungan participated in the Look Good … Feel Better program’s Train the Trainer initiative in order to have the program available closer to where women in the area live.
“We’ve had women from as far away as Abilene and Sulphur Springs to attend a Look Good … Feel Better session in Temple,” she said.
For information on the program, call the Austin office of the American Cancer Society at (512) 919-1800 or go to www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org