“Beauty runs deep” is certainly fitting in our industry, but especially for the oncology client. My mom had breast cancer when she was 62 years old. She has since passed and was a survivor. At 73, my Dad died of metastatic lung cancer. I was much younger then and not in the esthetics field, but will never forget what each of them went through.
In 2012, Sandy, one of my rosacea clients who was in her 40s, advised she had been diagnosed with breast cancer again. She was 19 the first time. Sandy wanted to continue getting her regular facials as she knew this would keep her stress down and hopefully her rosacea under control. I requested Sandy get permission from her oncologist to continue with facial treatments, obtain her anti-cancer plan, and ask for any restrictions other than obviously avoiding all exfoliation.
While she was obtaining approval, I began researching in the hopes of finding a class that taught theory and practical application for the oncology client. I checked my local resources and my distant continuing educational resources and could not find a class. Further research found what seemed like the “Bible” for oncology esthetics. I bought the textbook and started reading! The book was a tremendous help in providing information about Sandy’s specific chemo cocktail, contraindications, and side effects. But like any textbook, it had limitations for practical use. It could never replace the need for hands-on training. Sandy’s oncologist permitted my modified facials and assisted with the timing of them so they were not concurrent with her treatments. She did very well all throughout. At her treatment’s end, Sandy thanked me and said she didn’t know what she would have done without those facials and the stress relief I provided. She referred to it as her “oasis.” It was then I knew that client was placed in my life for a reason.
Within months, I located an official oncology esthetics class and became certified in 2013. My experience and clients grew as I mentored with, became more educated, and re-certified every two years with Becky Kuehn of Oncology Spa Solutions. I will continue to do this so I am confident in safely handling all forms of cancers for both men and women. Approximately 30–35 percent of my facial clients are current oncology patients or have completed treatment and now are in their “new normal.”
Each client’s battle is different and their journey unique. Not only the physical manifestations of the treatment with all the side effects, rashes, and inflammation, but the emotional and psycho-social aspects of losing hair, eyebrows, and words and/or memory. Certain clients have touched me profoundly, like my young husband-and-wife couple. He has metastatic melanoma; she had nasopharynx cancer. I have other clients with brain, thyroid, uterine, endometrial, breast, and lung cancer. They allow you to love them, send them positive energy, and provide them with a safe haven and a listening ear to help them get through the challenges. They tell me about other patients they see receiving similar treatment but have radiation dermatitis and other skin effects they are not experiencing because of my work with them. They deeply care for, and entrust me with, their family and friends.
I find it a privilege and an honor to help the oncology client feel more whole and beautiful. The “My Oasis” facial is my oncology facial where compassion, education, touch, and care come together to achieve harmony in the skin. What Sandy and my other clients may not appreciate is how deeply they have touched my life and helped to make me whole.
Story of inspiration provided by
Lori M. Murtagh, LE at Salon Bernabo
Esthetician for 12 years
Practicing oncology skin care for 5.5 years
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