Tunde Jakab, stylist and manager at Fraiche Hair Salon on Danbury Rd., has already built a reputation for fantastic cuts and color, not to mention the masterful covering of grays for several Wilton women (none of whom I will ‘out’ here, but I will cop to my own regular touch-ups).
But it is the work she is doing with cancer patients at Danbury Hospital that has her most excited these days, and which fulfills a goal she has had since she met her first cancer patient clients at the start of her career.
“One was very young, in her thirties, with two kids. She had beautiful long hair. She walked into the salon and said ‘I am starting chemotherapy tomorrow, and I know my hair will be gone. But I don’t want my kids to notice anything – I want a wig that looks exactly like my hair does now,’” Jakab recalls. “We made a custom piece for her in a matter of days, using some of her own hair. When she tried it on and looked at herself, it was very emotional.”
Jakab says the experience changed her, giving her renewed focus.
“It made me realize that life is not something you can plan. It can change any time,” she says. “You have to make the most out of the time you have – every single moment. And if you are able to help people, help them.”
A licensed cosmetologist, Jakab is doing just that. She recently completed the certification process for Look Good, Feel Better – a program designed for women undergoing, or about to undergo, chemotherapy, radiation, or both. By attending a two-hour workshop, patients can learn about makeup, specialized skin and nail care, wigs, head coverings, and more, all taught by licensed professionals. Jakab says being part of the program is something she has wanted for a long time.
“I knew about it, and went on their website last year to apply. I saw that they had openings for Fairfield County cosmetologists and thought ‘Here I am!’”
Eager to get started, Jakab didn’t want to wait for the local certification program which was slated to begin in early 2014, opting instead to enroll in the Rockingham County orientation this past fall. Following that first seminar, Jakab moved on to her two required shadow days and saw the program in action.
“The first thing we learned about was building an understanding of what is happening–What is your client going through? What treatments? How can we help to make it easier for them?” she says, emphasizing that paying attention to appearance is a perfect compliment to a client’s medical regiment. “Doctors are focused on treatment, which is important. But so is self-esteem, which is why we focus on hair and makeup, looking good.”
During her shadow days, Jakab says she saw participants come into the room tentatively, only to leave with their faces lit up. It literally gave her chills.
“It is hard for them. When you look in the mirror and you see a person who looks like a stranger, you don’t feel like stepping out of the house,” she says. “You don’t feel like going to work or doing anything. This is the moment you need help.”
Following her training and certification, Jakab worked her first event at Danbury Hospital on March 10. With three attendees – and the doors open to anyone else in the cancer center who was interested – she was beyond pleased with the day.
“The hospital employees were so helpful, and the patients had fun,” she says. “We all left full of energy with smiles on our faces.”
Jakab’s next Look Good, Feel Better event will take place at Danbury Hospital on Monday, April 14. Programs are designed for two to twelve participants; registration is required, but is free of charge. To sign up, those interested need only talk to the patient coordinator at their treatment hospital. Regardless of where someone is undergoing treatments, they are welcome to come to the Danbury Hospital event. Patient Coordinators will also have information on insurance coverage for wig purchases, and for those who may not be covered or have available funds, the American Cancer Society offers the services of their wig bank.
Attendees will leave the event with a complimentary gift bag full of products they used during the program so that they can continue to work with them at home. Donated by companies like M.A.C., Estee Lauder, and Clinique, makeup is matched as closely as possible to participants’ skin types, and take-home instructions are provided.
Jakab says the positive effects of the day are seen in her clients’ appearance, but also in their overall attitude.
“It puts them in a better place. They look in the mirror and think, YES,” she says. “I have the strength, I look good, I can do this. I am ready to fight it.”
To learn more about the Look Good, Feel Better program, visit lookgoodfeelbetter.org.