June 16, 2015
By Isabel Teotonio
Over the next three days, a van of professional makeup artists will travel through parts of Toronto giving people free blue eye shadow makeovers in an effort to raise awareness about the emotional fallout that cancer patients experience.
“It’s really to show solidarity with those suffering from the cancer blues,” says Sherry Abbott, a 25-year ovarian cancer survivor and executive director of Beauty Gives Back, which is the charitable arm of the Canadian beauty industry. “We thought this would be an eye-catching way of raising some awareness about this overlooked psychosocial effect of cancer and its treatment.”
The idea for the so-called Wink campaign stems from the Look Good Feel Better program that the charity runs in 118 cancer care facilities and hospitals across the country — each year about 10,000 women participate.
For 23 years, the program has run workshops offering women tips on how to look and feel better because cancer treatment can result in, for instance, skin discoloration, hair loss, weight gain, weight loss. And over the years, many women in attendance have spoken out about the emotional toll of cancer and the lack of services to help them with this ordeal.
That’s why, says Abbott, the charity decided to launch the campaign and raise awareness about the so-called cancer blues. Plus, she notes a 1999 survey showing less than three per cent of cancer care funding in Canada goes toward psychosocial care of patients.
The Wink campaign is also about raising funds for Beauty Gives Back. For every video or selfie someone with blue makeup posts on Twitter using #WinkDay, the beauty industry will contribute $5 to the charity — up to a maximum of $25,000. (This is in addition to money the industry donates — for instance, last year, it gave more than $6 million in cash, product and gifts in kind to the charity.)
Money raised will go toward supporting the charity’s cancer resource website Facingcancer.ca and the Look Good Feel Better program, which runs free two-hour workshops. Women undergoing treatment learn about cosmetic hygiene, which is important because they have compromised immune systems, and learn how to use makeup to give their skin a healthy-looking touch and re-create the look of lost brows and lashes. They also get tips on choosing and styling a wig and how to use scarves and hats to compensate for hair loss.
Family physician Dr. Alexandra Ginty — she was diagnosed in 2010 with bilateral breast cancer and had a double mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy — knows the value of those workshops. She recalls attending one, wearing a wig to cover her shaved head.
“I felt so ugly — I smiled beyond it but I was crying underneath,” recalls the Oakville doctor. “I took my wig off and showed people this ugly haircut. And then when I got this response, ‘That was such a brave thing to do.’ It was so positive and strengthening for me.”
Certainly, some women aren’t comfortable with how they look, but others are and what’s important is that they feel like they have options, says Heather Sinardo, a senior manager at the Canadian Cancer Society, which refers patients to the program. (The Society is not involved in the Wink campaign.)
“Knowing what all those options are and knowing that whatever you want to pick is fine — that’s an empowering message,” she says. “For a lot of people, (cancer) really affects their self-image. So anything you can do that helps you feel more in control … can be really helpful.”
Plus, it gives women a chance to get together and speak with others who are going through the same thing, she adds. Sinardo agrees more emotional support services are needed, but adds more also needs to be done so that patients know about existing support services, such as those offered by the Society.
Toronto marketing expert Brynn Winegard says the campaign is a good cause and will be able to raise awareness if it remains very clear about its overall messaging.
“Their challenge will be in differentiating themselves from all the other causes out there using viral and emotional marketing (tactics).”
On Wednesday, the mobile makeup van will be around Liberty Village, and between Spadina Ave and Bathurst St, around Wellington St. W. On Thursday, it will be around the Eaton Centre, and near the intersection of Yonge St. and Bloor St. Friday, it will be parked at midday near Roy Thomson Hall and then on Bremner Blvd. from 5 to 8 p.m. to coincide with the Blue Jays game. To learn more about the support services and programs offered by the Canadian Cancer Society call 1-888-939-3333