Helping Women and Teens with Cancer Look Good Feel Better

During COVID-19, wellness and psycho-social support network, Look Good Feel Better has pivoted their formerly in-person workshops to be online, which has allowed them to support more women and teens. This week we spoke to Sue Larkin, Vice President of Programs at Look Good Feel Better to learn more about them and how they’re helping women and teens develop self-care and gain support from others.

Sarah Issa, Look Good Feel Better Teen Ambassador after a workshop
Sarah Issa, Look Good Feel Better Teen Ambassador, after a workshop

Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

Look Good Feel Better is dedicated to providing women and teens facing cancer with the support they need to manage the appearance-related effects of cancer and its treatment. Our workshops provide participants the tools and techniques to help them feel better and get closer to the person they were before their diagnosis. We are very proud that we typically serve up to 10,000 women each year.

In light of COVID-19, we have moved online. We’re definitely excited for the day when it’s safe to reopen our in-person workshops; but shifting online has given us the opportunity to reach women and teens from across Canada in rural and remote communities, as well as towns and cities that do not offer a workshop.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Wellness is a term that goes far beyond medical treatment. We use the broader, psycho-social definition of health that incorporates mental, emotional, social and spiritual well-being. It is not just about the diagnosis, but the person as a whole.

Approximately fifty percent of Canadian women are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Look Good Feel Better’s workshops are geared to supporting the appearance-related effects of cancer, providing women and teens with the skills and tools to make them feel like themselves again.

As everyone is learning to adapt to a new level of normal, teenagers facing cancer have to think about their lives in an entirely different perspective. Like Sarah Issa, many of our workshop attendants are either in isolation at home or in the hospital and our workshops aim to provide young women with a sense of community and a support system.

When did you start/join it?

I joined Look Good Feel Better almost 3 years ago.

What made you want to get involved?

There are so many reasons why I was excited to become part of the Look Good Feel Better team. I’d been aware of the organization since I was young because the Look Good Feel Better magazine would always be delivered to my house. And later, I knew many women who had attended the workshop and got so much out of it – my mother-in-law, my neighbour and two friends. I love that we are unique – there is no other organization in Canada that does what we do – yet we’re part of a global movement with Look Good Feel Better in 26 other countries across the world. And our volunteers are amazing – with 1200 of them across the country. Many have been with us from day one – that’s 29 years ago!!

Look Good Feel Better

What was the situation like when you started?

I love our history and consistency in delivering this fabulous workshop for women across the country. But, we are also able to be flexible and nimble to meet the changing needs of our communities. We recently added a breast care specific workshop to help women learn about breast forms and garment options for post-surgery — helping them return to their favourite activities and feel like themselves again while doing so.

Last year, we worked with a team of volunteers and a group of young women to relaunch our teen workshop because we wanted to make sure we were offering topics and activities that teenage women facing cancer would be interested in participating in.

How has it changed since?

In light of the pandemic, we moved the workshops online. They’ve been such a positive experience for so many women that when we’re able to re-open the in-person workshops, we will continue to offer online workshops. It allows us to reach women and teens in communities where we currently don’t offer in-person workshops. It also allows women who cannot get to their local workshop for other reasons like childcare or transportation to join virtually.

What more needs to be done?

Most cancer-related programs focus on medical treatment, which leaves a widening gap in providing psycho-social and well-being support.

At Look Good Feel Better, we are constantly looking for new ways to connect with our community and expand our reach within Canada. This year, we launched online workshops, expanded our breast care programming, and further developed our volunteer capacity training so that we can continue to deliver the best care and programs to women facing cancer. And when it is safe to do so, re-opening our workshops will take a bit of time as well.

How can our readers help?

If you know someone who is facing cancer who would benefit from our workshops, please encourage them to sign up and participate. All of our workshops are now available online.

Alternatively, Canadians can make a monetary donation online. Donations help keep our workshops running — from the volunteers that lead the workshops to the materials we send to our participants — a donation of any amount makes such a difference.

Do you have any events coming up?

The next online teen workshop is on December 13th from 2-3:15 p.m. EST. Interested teens and their parents can visit here to learn more and reserve a spot.

Where can we follow you?

You can follow us on Instagram at @lgfbcanada or Twitter @LGFBCanada

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome Toronto charity that you love?

The Toronto Community Foundation is a really unique organization that has an incredible pulse on what is going on in the city and brings like-minded charities, donors and change-makers together to create some great impact!