When Selina Sears steps out of her house, she usually hides behind a headwrap and big sunglasses. Since being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in February 2012, Sears, 49, of Baldwin, has been undergoing treatments that have thinned her hair, discolored her skin and shaken her self-confidence.
That wasn’t the case Wednesday night, though, as Sears modeled a new look for more than 100 people gathered inside Clinton G. Park in New Hyde Park. Sears was one of five cancer patients who participated in a demonstration of the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better program.
“I feel great. I feel wonderful .?.?. I feel like my old self, even just for a moment,” Sears said.
Usually these transformations happen in a more intimate setting at one of the many workshops that Look Good, Feel Better hosts throughout the country, but North Hempstead Town Clerk Leslie Gross decided to hold a public demonstration to bring more awareness to the program.
“We don’t want this to be a secret,” she said. “We want everybody who needs this to be aware of this free program.”
During the demonstration, Sears, along with three other models -- Patty Catania, 42, of Farmingdale, Fay Marie De Claro, 31, of Westbury, and Sandra Sayroo, 50, of Richmond Hill -- bared their balding heads and their natural faces, and then, allowed a team of five professional cosmetologists to transform them.
The licensed cosmetologists are volunteers with the Look Good Feel Better program, a collaboration of the American Cancer Society, the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and the Professional Beauty Association--National Cosmetology Association, and have been trained on how to address the aesthetic concerns of cancer patients.
Through the program, women are taught beauty tricks such as how to draw eyebrows, and they receive free wigs and makeup. There’s also workshops for teens and men. In Long Island, these programs are offered at health facilities across the region including the North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Monter Cancer Center in New Hyde Park.
“The Look Good, Feel Better program empowers women to really deal effectively with the possible side effects of cancer treatment,” said Donna Vignola, a social worker with Monter Cancer Center. “The transformations not only come from the outside, but you can also see it from the inside.”
As he watched his mother undergo her makeover, Sears' son, Roger Murray, 24, said the program has been “very uplifting for her.”
“She thinks she’s Kim Kardashian,” he said. “The very the best part about it is seeing how happy she’s been taking part in this program.”
In addition to the hair and makeup, the models also received a new outfit from Loehmann’s in New Hyde Park, which they picked out Tuesday with their stylists.
Carissa Crossan, 12, of Lindenhurst, was also invited to participate in this part of the program, and on Wednesday. The young fashionista watched closely, sometimes asking questions of the cosmetologists, as the other women were glammed up.
Carissa was diagnosed on April 24 with Ewing’s sarcoma and has already undergone three doses of chemotherapy. In addition to modeling her new shirt, skirt, boots and earrings Wednesday night, Carissa also sported a new haircut, a very short pixie, and a big smile.
“My hair was falling out in clumps and it was kind of painful to watch, so I had George, my stylist, come to the hospital and we had a lot of fun shaving my head,” she said. “I thought it would be a sad thing, but it was fun.”
Carissa and the four models all said they would recommend the Look Good Feel Better program to anyone coping with cancer.
“It did something to me,” said Sayroo. “It helped us to put what we are going through behind us a little bit and look forward to something exciting -- the clothes, the makeup, having people looking at us, feeling like a star.
“It’s true,” she added, “When you look good, you do feel better.”