Periodically, we put the spotlight on one of our valued LivingWell Cancer Resource Center volunteers, staff members, or participants. Today, the spotlight is on LivingWell volunteer Jenny Burns who co-leads LivingWell’s “Beautiful You” program with Karen Wake, another outstanding volunteer. Burns is a licensed hairdresser and cosmetologist with her own shop, Art At Work, in Geneva, Illinois
How and why did you get involved with the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center?
We’ve all heard the phrase, ”When a door closes another window opens.” It was a move to Wisconsin 15 years ago that opened up an opportunity for me to finally learn wig 101. While I was rebuilding my salon in Wisconsin, I volunteered at my local hospitals’ wig boutiques. Every gal I had the pleasure to work with taught me everything I know today. I think hair loss hits you as hard as the word “cancer.” When I moved back to Geneva, the Living Well Cancer Resource Center was new to me. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to continue my passion volunteering with women experiencing cancer. I started as a facilitator for the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) program and as a consultant for LivingWell’s Wig Boutique. When LGFB came to an end, LivingWell created the “Beautiful You” program for women experiencing appearance-related side effects from their treatments. Our emphasis is on clean and safe approaches to take back control, and helping patients feel like themselves again.
What is your favorite thing about LivingWell’s Beautiful You program?
The participants often arrive unsure of themselves and wondering, “Do I really need this program about makeup and wigs?” The real beauty of this program, though, is not cosmetics. It’s about being with others going through a cancer journey and feeling less alone and defeated. By the end of each monthly Beautiful You class, participants have eyebrows and are laughing together. It’s so powerful to see a group of strangers get to know each other and regain a part of their former selves. They leave feeling beautiful inside and out!
How long have you been a hairdresser with a focus on helping patients with cancer who are experiencing hair loss as result of treatment?
I have been specializing in hair loss and regrowth for women undergoing cancer treatment for 15 years and a licensed cosmetologist for 43 years.
What one BIG piece of advice would you give to someone about caring for a synthetic wig?
I can’t say it enough, No Heat! That means no hair dryers, curling irons or opening the oven. Treat a wig like a fine cashmere sweater and wear it with conviction and a smile.
Craziest question you get about wigs?
I get asked quite often, “Is my wig going to fly off?” For a bald woman facing the public, this is a very valid question, and my answer is always the same, “No!” Think of a wig like a wedding dress. You can’t take it off the hanger and just walk down the aisle. It needs to be customized to fit you. Your wig may need a tuck, loosening or trim, and then can you throw caution to the wind and wear it with confidence.
Interested in sharing your story? The LivingWell Community blog wants to hear from you!