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Fashion program offers beauty, strength and kinship to cancer patients

Wednesday, May. 28 | By Hannah Dellinger
Charlotte Hamilton styles a wig on lung cancer patient Bonnie James during a recent Look Good...Feel Better meeting at Fauquier Hosiptial.
Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Bonnie James is undergoing the last legs of treatment for lung cancer at Fauquier Hospital. Chemotherapy has taken an emotional and physical toll on her, but she feels beautiful – and strong.

James recently attended a Look Good...Feel Better class at the hospital. Not only did she learn specialized beauty tips and techniques from trained professionals and received make up and a wig for free, she also made new, supportive friends.

“I was a little down in the dumps about having cancer and I thought it wouldn’t hurt,” she said. “ I had fun, it was great. It was very uplifting and informative.”

James said that she learned more than just beauty advice.

“You have to stand on your own two feet and take each day with a smile,” said James.

Fauquier Hospital hosts monthly LGFB meetings for its patients. Hair stylists Charlotte Hamilton, Kelley Godwin and Paula Jackson have helped facilitate the classes for nearly a year.

“We’ve seen people go from having tears when they tell their story when they come in to the biggest smile you can imagine,” said Godwin. “That’s just amazing for us.”

The three beauty professionals have worked together for about 26 years at Sophisticuts in Warrenton. They say that going to LGFB is a fun chance to get together outside of work.

All three have experienced loss due to cancer. Jackson lost her best friend to breast cancer, Hamilton has lost an aunt and grandparents to cancer and Godwin has had a breast cancer scare herself. She has been tested twice because of lumps found during an exam.

“It’s personal to me because I may be in their shoes one day,” she said.

The ladies decided to volunteer their expertise after a client approached Hamilton and asked if she would be interested in taking over the facilitation of the program at the hospital after the previous volunteer couldn’t any longer.
“A lot of our clients have gone through treatment, so it is a way of honoring and respecting them and what they’ve been through and helping them through it,” said Hamilton.

Because the disease has affected all of their lives, they decided to get certified and undergo training provided by the American Cancer Society.

Since then the ladies have seen patients ranging in all ages and stages of cancer transform before their eyes. During the monthly two-hour classes they teach the patients how to tie scarves and wraps around their heads, pencil on eyebrows, hide chemo-induced breakouts and dark circles and how to style wigs.

They say that often the class can turn into a support group, because the patients can talk about their fight with cancer with others who understand the struggle.

“When they come in, sometimes they come in really upset and don’t really know what to expect,” said Godwin. “They’re kinda down but by the time you put the wig on them and makeup you can just see them brighten up.”
Godwin said that she jokes with the patients that the class is simply a pajama party and they are all there to have fun to feel beautiful.

“They feel special again,” she said. “We do it to volunteer and give back, but we leave with a rewarding feeling in our hearts, because they feel good about who they are.”

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