"It's not about making them pretty, it's about touching the inner person and when you touch the inner person, the beauty comes forward."
In hospitals across Phoenix, Arizona, cancer patients are getting time away from their treatments to be pampered. Started by Barbara MacLean in 2004, Face In The Mirror "takes pampering, love, human touch to the patient in the hospital who is without hope, many times without body parts, without hair."
Face In The Mirror was inspired by MacLean's sister, Charlotte, who was ill with breast cancer 10 years ago. Seeing her at her "lowest ebb, at the time in her life when she was feeling the worst," MacLean wanted to do something to help her.
Despite her sister's initial objection, MacLean started to make up her face. She "did over her wig, gave her a little blush to her face, [matching] lipstick to her eyes and drew in an eyebrow where there was no eyebrow." As soon as she saw herself in the mirror, "she was rejuvenated and it was an amazing recovery of someone who was so sick."
Her sister asked her to make a promise, saying "you have to do this for others... because no one cares what you look like when you're sick... no-one but you." So MacLean worked to make Face In The Mirror a 501c3 non-profit, and since then, has touched the lives of over 17,000 patients. The organization is growing year by year and saw over 4,700 patients last year alone.
Face In The Mirror offers facials, massages, make-up and wigs, all free of charge, to men, women and children alike. They also provide each patient with a gift bag that "always includes moisturizer, balm for the lips, and a salve," all carefully chosen to provide the care needed without blocking up the patients' pores.
To make sure patients get the best treatment, Face In The Mirror only takes on trained professionals who in turn train their volunteers. One such professional is Carina Martinez, whose passion for the work she does is evident as soon as you meet her.
Gloria Schuler, a patient, says that, "she's just a breath of warmth and sunshine, and she's just an amazing woman, she gives of herself and I am just amazed at people who do that."
And just as the patients enjoy her company, Martinez explains that "I feel my heart overflowing with an overwhelming emotion that I was able to make a difference in touching them, to make them feel confident, that whatever they're thoughts, whatever they're feeling, that I put a smile on their face."
The patients can always count on Face In The Mirror being there for them. MacLean emphasizes that "while we're in that room, we give them the confidence that we will be there for them tomorrow or the next day and that if they need a foot massage tomorrow, and they don't feel like one today, we're there for them."
Ellen Castleman, the Cancer Center Manager, says that "people's emotional state after they encounter Face In The Mirror and have a make-over or a massage is probably one of the most elevating things for a cancer patient. You see them going from sad to being vibrant."
Patient Tamera Call explains that "it takes you from being a patient back to being a person again, wanting to look good, wanting to feel good, wanting to feel normal again."
More than that even, having an impartial person to talk to, someone who, like family and friends, is not directly connected to the patient's wellbeing, can give them a sense of freedom to discuss whatever they want.
By visiting the patients and teaching their friends and family how to give them a foot rub or facial themselves, Face In The Mirror presents a ray of hope to those people whose days are otherwise preoccupied by treatment, illness and negativity.
"For me, it's the best thing I've ever done except give life to two beautiful children. It is the best journey of my life." Face In The Mirror's effect is evident as soon as you see a patient and their faces have lit up. "We walk into their space and in a very few minutes, we can lift their spirits and leave them feeling like they're whole."