Sitting in the radiation therapy waiting room, a woman waiting for treatment complained about things people have said to her since her diagnosis. “You don’t look like you are in cancer treatment, you look so good.” She went on to explain that she did not feel like she was doing well. She was filled with anxiety because of a return of breast cancer and two tumors recently found on her lung. She went on to say, “I have always tried to look my best…..but that certainly doesn’t change what is going on inside of me.” My heart went out to her.
In an old Saturday night live skit Billy Crystal made the following comment famous, “Darling, it is always better to look good than to feel good.” So silly and shallow, but funny. Yet, since 1989 the American Cancer Society has sponsored a free program called, Look Good, Feel Better. Any cancer patient can sign up for a consult with a cosmetician and receive a free bag of cosmetics suited to skin type.
I am struggling a bit here. Read my post called “The New 60?” to understand why. But actually, I appreciate what the American Cancer Society is doing with this kind of program. You only need to read a couple of testimonies from women who participated in Look Good, Feel Better to get teary-eyed and grateful for such a thoughtful program. As one woman explained, “I was pale, hairless with dark patches on my face and feeing terribly self-conscious. During the beauty consultation I felt uplifted and normal and more confident to meet the public.” I found the program a boost to my self-esteem as well. And I could do it without feeling so vain. After all, I am being treated for cancer. I get a free pass for a lot of things.
If this was my last word on the topic I would have given a nice advert and thumbs up to a good program and left it at that. But I did a little research on the scientific studies associated with looking good and feeling good and found a study that left me disturbed and prompted theological reflection. If you are curious about that study read the article, “Are You Too Good Looking to Get Sick?” at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2675563/high-blood-pressure-asthma-research-says-looks-affect-risk-illness.html
If you are curious about my theological reflections read next weeks post.