Salon, hospital team up to let breast cancer survivors look and feel better

Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Valerie Williams reacts Thursday as Belladona employee John Paul Long holds a mirror for her to see her makeover results during the Rise Above with Love event. Williams' was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago, and has been in remission for four months. Belladona Salon partnered with Southeast Missouri Hospital for the event to promote breast cancer awareness, by providing free salon services for breast cancer survivors, giveaways, makeup demos and donating proceeds from the sale of a special lip gloss to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (Kristin Eberts)

Some discover they have breast cancer through a mammogram, others by doing a breast self-exam at home, but Valerie Williams, 64, of Cape Girardeau discovered her breast cancer in a most unusual way.

"I woke up one night in the middle of the night from a dream screaming, 'I have breast cancer,'" Williams said.

She called her doctor the next morning to make an appointment and he confirmed her nightmare.

"I was in a state of numbness at first, and then I turned it over to God. That's been my strength," Williams said.

She has now been cancer-free for four months and got her first haircut in more than a year at Belladona Salon Spa & Boutique's Rise Above With Love breast cancer awareness event Thursday.

Valerie Williams gets her makeup done by Belladona employee John Paul Long during the Rise Above with Love event on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2010. Williams' was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago, and has been in remission for four months. Belladona Salon partnered with Southeast Missouri Hospital for the event to promote breast cancer awareness, by providing free salon services for breast cancer survivors, giveaways, makeup demos, and donating proceeds from the sale of a special lip gloss to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (Kristin Eberts)

The salon, in partnership with Southeast Missouri Hospital donated hair cuts, massages, facials, pedicures and other treatments to give more than 100 breast cancer survivors and patients mini-makeovers.

"If you look good, you will feel better," Belladona owner Linda Springs said.

Williams -- whose mini-makeover included a moisturizing hair treatment, haircut and professional makeup application -- agrees.

"I'm looking forward to being able to use my blow dryer again," she said.

Williams lost her hair during chemotherapy treatments she had following a mastectomy and a round of radiation.

Valerie Williams gets her hair cut by Belladona employee Joseph West during the Rise Above with Love event on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2010. This was Williams' first hair cut since losing her hair due to cancer treatment. She has been in remission for four months. Belladona Salon partnered with Southeast Missouri Hospital for the event to promote breast cancer awareness, by providing free salon services for breast cancer survivors, giveaways, makeup demos, and donating proceeds from the sale of a special lip gloss to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (Kristin Eberts)

Her fellow teachers at Alma Schrader Elementary School gave her a hat and scarf party before she started her chemotherapy.

"When I went back to school after my surgery I explained to my first-graders that I would be losing my hair," Williams said. "When it first started falling out and they were acting out, I'd joke with them and say look, you're making my hair come out."

Williams continued to teach throughout her treatments and after her initial recovery from surgery, only missing school on the days she had to go in for chemo treatments.

A grandmother of one of her students who was a breast cancer survivor volunteered to assist Williams in her classroom while she was in treatment.

Williams said having a good support system is key to surviving cancer. Her own family as well as co-workers and her church members gave her strength throughout the ordeal, she said.

"All the time I was always getting a show of love in some way," Williams said. "It really renews your faith in mankind."

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

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