REDWOOD CITY (KPIX 5) For women with cancer, one of the most traumatic parts of the treatment can be losing their hair. Some health care professionals have even found the fear of hair loss is one reason why some patients consider refusing chemotherapy.
That was not the case with singer Felicia Rogers. She did have chemotherapy and radiation when she received her breast cancer diagnosis. And she has learned how to cope with hair loss. But Rogers also recognized she needed some help navigating a new beauty regime. Enter “Look Good Feel Better” and star volunteer Stephen Wakefield.
Wakefield, a trained cosmetologist and make-up artist, has run two hair salons of his own for years. But about twice a month, for the past two decades, he has led free beauty and skin care workshops for cancer survivors, mostly at hospitals like Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City. His beauty tips have included everything from ideas for using head wraps and wigs to makeup recommendations for sensitive skin and lost eyebrows.
For cancer survivors like Rogers, the classes are more than just a fun break. The classes have been so meaningful to her, even talking about it brings her to tears.
“He does it in a comedic fashion which is really fun,” explained an emotional Rogers. “You are not alone. You are able to have people who are caring and loving. It’s kind of hard, receiving love.”
Look Good Feel Better is a 28-year-old program of the American Cancer Society. April Morton, of the American Cancer Society, says Wakefield is the workshop’s longest-serving Bay Area volunteer. Morton praised his long standing good work with the organization.
“Stephen’s just very compassionate and dedicated,” said Morton.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Munira Gulzar, Nurse Manager at Kaiser Permanente’s Oncology Department.
“They leave the class with smiles on their faces, with a new hope,” explained Gulzar.
Wakefield has some deeply personal experience with cancer. He lost both parents and a grandmother to the disease. It’s in their honor that he has been teaching his two hour classes to hundreds of students for over 25 years.
Students say they have gained much from the classes as well. In fact, after they meet Wakefield at a workshop, women will sometimes go to his salon before chemo to get their hair cut short, or shaved off, and he’ll do that for free. Other times, women will stop by his salon after they’ve stopped chemo, and their hair grows back, to say “thank you.” It’s a gesture that Wakefield says touches him deeply.
“I love helping people,” said Wakefield. “It just makes my heart feel good.”
So for adding a touch of beauty to women on their healing journey, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Stephen Wakefield.