Becky Halstead says the Walgreens beautician who gently taught her to draw on the eyebrows chemotherapy stripped away, helped her to feel normal again.
“It made a big, big difference in being able to look in the mirror and see somebody I recognized,” said Halstead, 51, who lives with her family in Flagstaff, Arizona, and is battling breast cancer for a second time. “It seems silly to focus on eyelashes and eyebrows, but the way I felt after, it’s not silly at all….I could go out to dinner and not feel like a patient. I could actually go out to dinner with my husband on a date and feel like a wife again.”
In an effort to help people battling cancer and survivors feel good on the outside as they heal, Walgreens is expanding a program that pairs its beauty departments with its pharmacies to more than 3,000 stores on Monday.
With roughly 1.7 million people diagnosed with cancer each year, Walgreens piloted the program, dubbed “Feel More Like You” at 400 stores in 2018. It aims to offer a holistic approach that addresses the beauty as well as the medical needs of those who have been diagnosed with cancer.
“It was so evident we needed to not only take care of them internally but also help them feel more like themselves because that’s half the battle to survive,” says Rina Shah, vice president of pharmacy operations for Walgreens, who leads the retailer’s oncology team.
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At the designated locations, a patient picking up medication at the pharmacy can walk over to the beauty aisle and talk to consultants who’ve been trained in what products are best to deal with issues like the parched cuticles or dry hair that can result from chemotherapy. Or someone who simply walks into one of the stores and spots signs or consultants wearing buttons noting the program can also get assistance.
The service is free.
Jocelyn Dorsey, 51, who is dealing with metastatic breast cancer says that chemotherapy not only caused her to lose all of her hair, but her skin became dry, and her fingernails and toenails became brittle and discolored.
Her Walgreens consultant taught her about balms and even nail polishes that were moisturizing. And, like Halstead, she learned how to tend to her eyebrows.
“Just their expertise with beauty and making people feel better or look better was very comforting,” said Dorsey, a mother of four, who along with Halstead will be featured in videos about the program. “You’re hoping to find that one thing that makes you feel normal again, and just to be able to get up and put my eyebrows on and look in the mirror and smile, that helped a lot. And it really did give me a lot of confidence.”
Halstead discovered that a green concealer covered up a red patch of skin that had appeared on her nose. And in the circle of cancer survivors who uplift one another with tips and inspiration, the Walgreens program is another thing worth sharing.
“You take a little boost here, and a little boost there … and you get through it,” she said. “There’s no magic bullet. But it’s a way to survive.”
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