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Look Good, Feel Better, makeup becomes an important weapon in the cancer battle


Hairdresser Diana Heeney has spent her career making women look and feel beautiful.

Now, the Hubbard, Nebraska woman is using her talents in a unique way.

"You still want to be able to see it. You don't want to rub it all in,” hair and make-up artist Diana Heeney tells Marguerite Penning, of Sioux City, as she helps her put on make-up.

Heeney has spent decades helping women with their hair and makeup.

"Let's go ahead and do our blush,” she tells Marguerite and the other woman participating in this month’s Look Good Feel Better class, Marilyn Kelly.

"Wow, I've got to learn to put more makeup on,” Penning exclaims as Heeney brushes her cheek.

These are not Heeney’s normal clients.

"I was diagnosed January of 2013,” Penning states.

These are cancer patients.

"It was ovarian cancer that had gone to my lymph nodes and also had metastasized,” says Kelly, of South Sioux City, NE.

Heeney and her business partner Lori Conway, owner of Four's Company Hair Studio in Sioux City, volunteer their time once a month at the June E. Nylen Cancer Center.

“Like that?" Kelly asks Conway, as she tries to apply her eyeliner.

“Oh you did it. Good job! See!" Lori encourages.

"My sister actually came to the class that we did one day,” Heeney makes sure to mention to the group.

She lost Mary in 2008 to ovarian cancer.

"You see a lot of people who are sick, and it's like, 'I don't want to look like that,” said Kelly of why she signed up.

The "Look Good, Feel Better" program helps women battle the effects of cancer.

"I remember my sister was in the hospital for quite a while and she came home and looked in the mirror and said, ‘oh, I just look so sick. Well, it's because she had no eyelashes or eyebrows,’” recalls Heeney.

"I looked in the mirror and I could just see what the chemo was doing on the inside because I could see it on the outside,” says Penning of her lowest days battling breast cancer.

Heeney and Conway take the ladies step by step through the process, focusing on areas that are most effected by chemo treatments, such as dry skin and hair loss.

"When your eyebrows are gone you have a natural little tiny bump. That way you know horizontally, where to put your eyebrows,” Heeney teaches them.

She also shows them how to make a turban out of an old t-shirt. Sometimes Heeney and Conway put the makeup on the women, but the goal is to get them to be able to do it themselves, at home.

The women get a bag of makeup to use during class and take with them.

“Do you also have lipstick in these kits,” asks Heeney.

"You have everything in these kits,” Penning answers.

The make-up is donated by cosmetics companies to the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, which makes up the take-home kits for the American Cancer Society.

The Look Good Feel Better program is not only arming women with the tools to look their best, it's also offering emotional support.

During the class, Kelly turns to Penning to say, "You look beautiful.”

"You do to,” says Penning excitedly.

The women swap stories and share tips.

"All this hair came in, and none of this. I looked like a clown,” Kelly, who is now in remission, tells Penning.

"I wanna see how it's going to take for my hair to look like yours,” Penning tells her.

"It will come in time," Kelly assures.

"It's not just the makeup and the makeup tips, which is awesome. They get to know each other and they're always friends after that,” observes Conway.

"In this room, when you're going through this makeup thing, you just feel that you're not alone,” says Kelly.

“Just to see the smile on their face when they're all done,” adds Conway.

"I look like I have life in me again. It was like I looked in the mirror and I thought, I have Marguerite back,” says Penning, her eyes welling with tears.

The healing goes both ways.

“When they leave, you are hugging everyone, they've given me more than I've actually given them,” says Heeney.

An important part of the prescription in the fight against cancer is boosting the spirits of women in the battle for their lives.

Despite the serious subject, the room is filled with laughter by the end of class.

"Look at us! We're hotties," jokes Kelly.

Penning corrects her.

“We're sisters,” she says.

The program meets the first Monday of every month at the June E. Nylen Cancer Center in Sioux City.

Check out a tutorial of how to draw eyebrows and how to make a t-shirt turban, along with personal essays from other women who took the class.

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