She doesn't have a medical license, but Kay Kendrick has spent the past 20 years helping cancer patients feel better. She's done such a good job that the American Cancer Society recently presented her an award of recognition.
Mrs. Kendrick is a cosmetologist and the owner of Cut and Style on Main Street in Thomson. She has volunteered with the cancer society's Look Good ... Feel Better program since it began.
"Sometimes in the medical field, they think health is the most important thing," Mrs. Kendrick said. "But if the patient doesn't feel good about themselves, then they feel they are losing the battle. Cancer takes away every bit of their control. So, when they can take back a minor bit of control, they feel they are winning the battle."
Licensed cosmetologists in the Look Good ... Feel Better program teach patients how to deal with skin changes and hair loss due to cancer treatments. Held at McDuffie Regional Medical Center, the free classes provide each patient with a free cosmetic kit, personalized training to use the products, as well as tips on disguising hair loss.
In Thomson, class attendance averages two to five people. Each year, Mrs. Kendrick teaches at least six patient sessions in Thomson and Augusta, six training sessions to certify other cosmetologists for the state and two state conference calls.
"Kay Kendrick is an amazing volunteer for us," said Summer Garrison, ACS senior community manager. "We are truly grateful for the many years of service she has given to teaching not only the cancer patients that attend the class, but also the facilitators of the classes. ... She has left her footprint on this program and we are grateful."
The memories of patients she's helped have left an impression on Mrs. Kendrick, as well. Her most inspiring memory is of a lady who was very active socially in her church, garden club and civic clubs. But when she lost her hair, "she became reclusive," Mrs. Kendrick said. Although the patient already had a wig, she called Mrs. Kendrick because she was devastated over the loss of her eyelashes and eyebrows.
"So, I worked with her and she immediately started going back out again," Mrs. Kendrick said. "The next day, her husband called me and thanked me for giving him his wife back. That's the reason I do it."
Not only do cancer treatments cause loss of hair on the head, but on the body, Mrs. Kendrick said.
"And hair loss on the face makes the face look very blank. We teach ways to mask that. It's small, simple steps, but they are monumental steps to the patient," she said.
Mrs. Kendrick also is chairwoman of the Georgia Board of Cosmetology and sits on the National Board of Cosmetology. She has run her shop on Main Street for 18 of her 31 years as a cosmetologist. From the American Cancer Society, she received a crystal coaster with the ACS logo and engraved with appreciation for 20 years of service.
"It doesn't seem like it's been that long, but it's been fun," she said. "I enjoy it."
Look Good ... Feel Better is a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the National Cosmetology Association and Personal Care Products Foundation.
The next class at McDuffie Regional Medical Center is from 5-7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 8. It is available for residents in Warren, McDuffie, Lincoln, Jefferson, Hancock and Wilkes counties. Register by calling Danielle Truan at the American Cancer Society, (866) 227-0904.