We sat down with Vanessa Gambin, PR and Communications Manager at LGFB to talk about the incredible work LGFB does in empowering, educating and uplifting people undergoing treatment for cancer.
Interview with Vanessa Gambin LGFB | Visuals sourced by Ashley Simonetto
What was the initial vision and mission behind Look Good Feel Better and has this changed over time?
Look Good Feel Better started in the USA in 1989. A health professional was working with a depressed cancer patient who was so self-conscious she wouldn’t leave her hospital room, so he organised a makeover for her. The change in the patient’s attitude and emotional approach to her treatment was so profound that it became clear there was a need for a service that could be offered to all cancer patients to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.
The program commenced in New York and one year later - in 1990 - was brought to Australia with the first workshop held at Westmead Hospital in Sydney.
Today the program remains a free, national community service program run by the Cancer Patients Foundation and 30 years on, our mission remains the same. We exist to help improve the wellbeing and confidence of people undergoing treatment for any type of cancer through assisting them with the management of the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.
Our vision is also unchanged, and that is for the Cancer Patients Foundation to be an integral part of cancer care in Australia.
You have programs all over the world. Why, now more than ever, is the work LGFB is doing so important?
Our program provides those undergoing treatment with very practical tips and tricks to enable them to look and feel more in control of the changes they are experiencing, and therefore more confident in facing not only their treatment, but their day to day lives. It helps restore a sense of normality and certainty in a very uncertain time.
For the past three years we have compiled a Global Participant Survey with our Look Good Feel Better affiliates in 16 countries across five continents. This year’s survey collected data from more than 26,000 female program participants globally and the results prove that Look Good Feel Better has a positive impact for women in cancer treatment, regardless of country or culture.
These results make it very clear that the Look Good Feel Better program consistently delivers a valuable service to women experiencing side-effects of cancer treatment.
Can you tell us a little bit about why funding is so important for LGFB and where the funds raised by Worn For Good will go?
The Cancer Patients Foundation runs the Look Good Feel Better program and is an independent not-for-profit organisation, not affiliated with any other cancer charity or support service.
With no government funding, the Cancer Patients Foundation relies heavily on the generosity of corporate and community supporters to allow for the Look Good Feel Better service to be provided to cancer patients across Australia free-of-charge.
Each workshop costs $1000 to run and each Home-Delivered Confidence Kit has a cost of $75, so every dollar raised by Worn for Good will go directly towards funding these services.
The workshops run for two and a half hours and cover skincare techniques to address common side-effects like dryness and sun sensitivity; makeup tips to help correct and conceal redness, sallowness, pigmentation and dark circles as well as techniques for drawing on eyebrows; and advice on headwear including scarf styling and wig selection.
The Home-Delivered Confidence Kit (HDCK) service is available for those cancer patients who are too unwell, too remote, uncomfortable in a group setting or unable to attend a workshop around other commitments. The HDCK’s contain the same skin care and cosmetic products that participants would receive in a workshop, along with an instructional booklet and a DVD. The HDCK means patients are able to learn the same skills as they would in a workshop, in the comfort and privacy of their own home.
What are the biggest challenges, that you as an organisation face?
Funding is one of our ongoing challenges. The program needs $1.5 million each year to remain viable and with the charity landscape constantly changing and evolving, it is increasingly difficult to secure ongoing, long term funding commitments.
Without the generosity of our community of supporters – to provide us with the stock for our Confidence Kits and the funding to run our program – we simply cannot continue to offer our service free-of-charge to all Australians undergoing treatment for cancer.
How does LGFB define beauty?
To us, beauty is about confidence and empowerment. We truly believe that you feel better about facing the day and any challenges it might bring if you’re comfortable in your own skin. And what we do in our workshops is so simple, yet so empowering that it brings back that comfort and confidence for many who have lost it after receiving a cancer diagnosis.
Whether it’s knowing how to conceal changes to the skin that are causing distress, knowing how to give the illusion of eyebrows or eyelashes, or simply having the confidence to wear a bolder coloured lipstick than normal, having knowledge and feeling empowered to make these small changes brings out the absolute most of a persons inner and outer beauty.
Are there any uplifting moments you have experienced through the program that inspire you to continue the work you do?
Each and every workshop is inspiring for us. We read every single piece of feedback we receive - it’s always so incredibly heart-warming to hear the difference that something so simple is making in so many people’s lives.
The most uplifting moments we have though, are often when we receive thanks from the family members of a participant. When a husband or son or daughter or sister takes the time to call or write to us because of the difference they have noticed in their loved ones after a workshop experience; that’s when we’re reminded that what we’re doing is not only impacting the individual, it’s impacting everyone in their lives, and that’s what keeps us motivated to continue our work.
When a husband or son or daughter or sister takes the time to call or write to us because of the difference they have noticed in their loved ones after a workshop experience; that’s when we’re reminded that what we’re doing is not only impacting the individual, it’s impacting everyone in their lives, and that’s what keeps us motivated to continue our work.
Any there any pieces of advice that you pass on to participants, or that they share amongst themselves?
Our biggest piece of advice is probably that colour is your friend!
We are constantly encouraging our participants to make bold choices, experiment, and try new things when it comes to their make up and their headwear. We remind them that if they don’t like how something looks, it’s very easy to take off.
More often than not though, our participants are amazed to find that something they never would have tried actually looks fantastic on them and goes a long way in lifting their spirits and making them feel much more confident!
Your main offering is the Workshops and Confidence Kits. What else is on the horizon for LGFB?
We are very excited to be piloting online workshops in the coming months.
These will provide an additional option to those who are too remote, too unwell, or too time poor to attend a workshop, but would still prefer to be taken through our workshop demonstrations in a ‘group’ setting guided by one of our trained volunteers, rather than working through the demonstrations independently with our Home-Delivered Confidence Kit.
What can WFG do to best support LGFB?
CTA - To register for a workshop, to apply to volunteer, or to show support in other ways visit lgfb.org.au or phone 1800 650 960. And don’t forget Facebook and Instagram - @LGFBAustralia.