Becky Halstead has experienced this challengeall too often.
This local mother of five and small business owner has battled breast cancer twice: once in 2013 and again in 2018.
“It’s a statistical anomaly. You just don’t get breast cancer twice,” said Halstead, 51, whose children range in age from 13 to 33. During her second bout with the disease, she encountered significant physical side effects related to her treatment and had limited financial resources to manage them.
She found help in Flagstaff through the new Feel More Like You program at Walgreens, a pharmaceutical and beauty oncology service that helps cancer patients manage both the medical and the physical changes associated with treatment.
Since her second diagnosis, she has visited the Walgreens store on Route 66 at North Fourth Street many times for assistance with cosmetic and other issues.“I live here; it’s what I do,” she said with a laugh, while visiting the cosmetics counter early in April. “What a cool program – Feel More Like You. I thought it was a good name. You can cover up a lot of things, but not your face. I don’t want to stick out. I don’t want to be stared at.
According to a Walgreens press release, the new service, which was piloted in 400 stores in 2018, is now available in more than 3,000 Walgreens stores nationwide.
To develop this innovative program, Walgreens collaborated with Cancer Support Community, a non-profit cancer support network worldwide, as well as a leading cancer support program that focuses on the appearance and beauty needs of cancer patients, Look Good, Feel Better.
To date, approximately 15,000 combined Walgreens pharmacists and beauty consultants have been trained to recommend products to help manage side effects associated with cancer treatment, such as nausea, skin rash, increased fatigue, mouth sores and dry mouth. Additional side effects can include hair loss and dry hair, dry skin and skin discolorations, sunlight sensitivities and changes to nails and cuticles.
All consulting services are free.
“Cancer is not for sissies,” Halstead said. “Sometimes you feel like a loser, and you aren’t! You just get down, and maybe if the outside looked more like you remember, you’d feel better.”
She said her best experience was learning how to put on fake eyelashes with the help of the Feel More Like You beauty consultant at Walgreens. Although now she has some natural eyelashes, “During treatment, when they’re gone, they’re gone.”
Her hair on her head has also grown out some.“Right now, I just look like I’m edgy,” she said with a smile. “It’s a challenge when you’re totally bald. The benefit for me is that I’ve been through it before. I understand that women on their first bout of cancer are scared – they don’t reach out.”
But Halstead has reached out, speaking widely about her cancer experiences, including appearing wearing a blue wig in a national Walgreens commercial.
“I want to talk about it,” she explained. “God gives everyone their own gift. The gift of gab is mine. I’m more than happy to talk about it.”
Jackie Montoya, a Flagstaff native and beauty consultant at the Route 66 location for nearly two years, is one of the Walgreens staff members who has received specialized training to help cancer patients.
“I help people from everywhere in the store,”she explained. “My job is to greet people as they walk through the door. If they are looking for cosmetics, then great.” It is not always immediately apparent that a customer is a cancer survivor looking for that special assistance, Montoya noted.
“If they have dry skin, brittle nails, I show them lotions,” she said. “I would ask them if it is for their face or body, or both. We have lots of lotions, creams, balms and cleaners; it depends on what they are looking for. Then they may tell me about their cancer story.”
Montoya said she has testers so customers can try products, as well as coupons for discounts on some items.“My job is to listen to their concerns and help them with that,” Montoya said. “Someone may say, ‘I feel nauseated,’ so I say, ‘Let’s go to the bathroom and then I’ll show you the medications for nausea.’”
The Feel More Like You program launched in March, said Mandy Brokaw, the store manager at the Route 66 Walgreens.“We’re excited about it,” she said. “When you feel you are ready for this, then we’re here for you. The additional training staff went through gave them more confidence to offer this service to people.”
Brokaw said a special out-of-town training session in Camp Verde was created to bring together beauty consultants in Northern Arizona “becausewe are so spread out.” The concept of specialized training for beauty consultants to help cancer survivors was pioneered by beauty advisors in 1,400 Boots health and beauty stores across the U.K. and was made possible through Macmillan Cancer Support, one of the largest British charities helping people affected by cancer.
Halstead has been married for 20 years to her husband, Chris Halstead, who has been with her “every step of the way through both cancer treatments,” she said.
“We met in radio, at KAFF. We were announcers. I was ‘Becky D’ and he was program director,” she recalled. “I have never been to an appointment by myself. It is fundamental to know you have someone there for you – he is my wingman.”
The Halsteads are Allstate insurance agents and own and manage the Halstead Agency in downtown Flagstaff. The Walgreens commercial she helped make with other women who are cancer patients is currently on the air. FBN
By Betsey Bruner, FBN