Feeling better already

Program teaches women with cancer hair, skin techniques to cope with disease

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Shortly after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in mid-May, Debbie Yeager said goodbye to her hair.

She invited her 3-year-old daughter to chop her ponytail of straight brown hair then donated it to Locks of Love, which creates wigs for children diagnosed with cancer.

"I can't use it," Yeager said. "Pretty soon it'll be going down the drain."

Yeager, 29, attended the Look Good ... Feel Better session Tuesday morning looking for a way to cope with her body's changes as she undergoes chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

"I wanted to know what's in store for me," Yeager said.

The program, administered by licensed cosmetologists Kim Dilldine of Craig and Merill Harned of Hayden, instructs women undergoing cancer treatments how to deal with hair, skin and nail changes to increase their self-esteem in their battle with the disease.

"I think we all want to feel good," Harned said. "I think we all want to focus on getting better instead of people looking at you like you're peculiar."

The cosmetologists began the nationwide program in Craig in October. Dilldine, a breast cancer survivor, attended a Look Good ... Feel Better session in Grand Junction and saw a need for the program to begin in Northwest Colorado.

"You get to feel good at a time when you don't feel you look your prettiest or don't feel comfortable," Dilldine said.

The women invite participants to sample makeup and learn proper moisturizing techniques, as well as try on wigs and hats.

"This is a time of change," Dilldine said. "This is a time you can really experiment. If you always wanted to be a blonde, now you can be."

Yeager, herself not ready to go blond, said she enjoyed attending the class and learning about the cosmetic possibilities for her as she progresses through treatment.

"I think it's a good thing for people to have available to them," Yeager said of the class. "What wonderful sponsors they have to donate all this stuff."

Cosmetic companies donate skin care products and makeup to create kits for each of the class' participants. The "high-end" products are a way for cancer victims to try new products or colors and have fun with makeup again, Dilldine said.

"This way you get to feel pampered," she said.

Local organizations make hats for Look Good ... Feel Better participants. The Amer--ican Cancer Society, which sponsors the program along with the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association and National Cosmetology Association, donates wigs. The hats and wigs are then free to participants who find some they like.

"It's a wonderful thing that they're willing to do this for the program," Harned said.

For more information on Look Good ... Feel Better, call Kim Dilldine at 824-8421 or Merill Harned at 276-4909 or visit www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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