New York

Makeup Artists Help Cancer Patients Put on a Brave Face

"You come in and you're not there to give them chemo, you're there to give them love and joy," makeup artist Amy Holiber said.

Many of the powerful drugs used to fight cancer result in hair loss and negatively affect the skin, leaving patients feeling less than their best. That's where a team of volunteers comes in, to not only restore their appearance, but also their dignity.

"The people you meet that take care of you make it so easy. I come in with a smile on my face because I know they're going to be here," patient Jennifer Morton said.

When she arrives for chemotherapy treatments, she is prepared for battle. Her weapons of choice; a positive attitude and a genuine smile.

Although she comes to treatment by herself, she is never alone.

On a recent visit, she was accompanied by Amy Holiber, a makeup artist with Lipstick Angels. The nonprofit provides facial treatments, hand massages and makeup applications to cancer patients at their bedsides, or while they're receiving infusions.

"You come in and you're not there to give them chemo, you're there to give them love and joy," Holiber said.

Holiber works as a makeup artist in Hollywood but said her time with Lipstick Angels is more emotionally fulfilling.

When Lipstick Angels founder and CEO Renata Helfman started the nonprofit five years ago, she was also working as a professional makeup artist in Hollywood.

"I just wanted to do something outside of the pretentiousness," Helfman said.

She decided to use the skills and talent she already possessed to restore and strengthen the dignity of seriously ill people while they're undergoing treatment. She now has a host of professional makeup artists volunteering for Lipstick Angels.

"Feeling empowered and feeling supported and knowing when you get here there's going to be someone holding your hand through this journey," Helfman said. "The Angel part of this is helping another fellow human being so selflessly."

Some may doubt the power of a personal makeup session for a woman, or a hand massage for a male patient, but medical experts see the benefits.

"Feeling mentally stable, joyful, comfortable, finding things to look forward to, being able to feel more positive about what is otherwise not a positive situation, I think can really help patients get through the challenges and prolonged nature of cancer treatment," Dr. B.J. Rimel said.

Morton calls makeup her coat of armor in her battle against cancer.

"I'm going to look good and I'm going to feel good. I think attitude is so much part of the overall treatment plan," Morton said. "It's kind of my first step to coming in and kicking this thing."

She is determined to beat cancer, with a medical team and Lipstick Angels by her side.

Lipstick Angels started at Cedars Sinai five years ago but has now expanded to Long Beach Memorial, City of Hope and New York Presbyterian.

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