Be a bright spot in the lives of clients undergoing cancer treatments with these tips on how to care for these customers, body and soul.
“I admit, and have even been told, that I can be a bit anal when it comes to keeping my salon nice and clean. Sanitation was high on my priority list even before I started working with at-risk clients,” says SPAtaneity LLC founder Missy Malone, shown here performing a manicure on a client with cancer.
It may seem odd that in the jumble of appointments that befall a woman with cancer — from radiation to chemotherapy to pharmacy medication pick-up — that she would want to add another appointment to her vast to-do list. But, in many cases, an appointment at the nail salon may be just what the doctor ordered.
“We are an ear to listen and chat and laugh. Hand care particularly is soothing and provides a sense of connectedness,” says licensed manicurist Sheila Fredriksen, who developed a class called Oncology Manicuring 101 and is CEO/founder of natural beauty brand Nontoxique. “Studies have shown that hand holding is the number-one form of intimacy and, for someone going through a challenge such as cancer, the touch alone can be very comforting.”
Indeed, 75% of oncologists consider the non-medical aspects of cancer care to be very important. This is according to a survey commissioned by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, a charitable organization established by the Personal Care Products Council, the founder of Look Good Feel Better, a public service program that teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients. In that study, 82% of oncologists who have had female patients participate in a support program believe they are extremely or very effective. And nine out of every 10 female cancer patients who have participated in a support program feel that the program lived up to or exceeded their expectations.
A little glitter can go a lon way in making a hospitalized client feel better, as evidenced by these lovely rockstar nails created by nonprofit Polished Girlz.
Plus, manicures and pedicures can help clients observe abnormalities related to the cancer or its treatment, which may be appearing in the hands or feet and that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. “We can be a set of eyes for change they might not otherwise pay attention to or share with their doctor,” Fredriksen says.
Due to some special circumstances such as a compromised immune system (see “5 Common Conditions” on page 3), the bodies of clients with cancer should be treated with special care. But when it comes to caring for your client’s mind and spirit, you should know that your client with cancer most likely just wants to be treated like any other client. The nail salon may be her one moment of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic time. “If a client is an established client, you will know to what degree you can discuss her journey [with cancer], or not.” Fredriksen says. “Maybe she is very spirited and life goes on as usual. If a client is new to you, the best way to determine what you will talk about is to use a client intake form. This is a great way to lead into your educating her about specific needs and finding out what her hobbies and regular activities are that have nothing to do with the cancer. This can help direct conversation toward positive things she loves. This is something that will go far in creating a relaxing experience for her and building a relationship.”
Fredriksen adds that you don’t need to worry about clients with cancer missing their scheduled appointments due to being sick and certainly not more than you worry about that with any other client. “Unless a client is coming in close to treatment administration and it’s understandable she might not be feeling well, I personally recommend treating cancellations as you would for any other client. It’s unlikely that a licensee will see a client after chemo or radiation as she is more likely to be somewhat tired and not feeling well enough, not to mention not approved by her doctor to be coming back in just yet,” Fredriksen says.
Missy Malone is the founder of SPAtaneity LLC in Fort Worth, Texas, a mobile salon that works with patients in hospital oncology and rehab wards including at Baylor Medical Center at McKinney and the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Fort Worth. Malone also opened a SPAtaneity location in the city’s medical district, where she deals with many at-risk clients, many of whom she met in the hospitals. “Prior to working within the medical community, I always knew I wanted to offer natural nail care in an eco-friendly manner. However, it wasn’t until I got the opportunity to render services in the hospital’s oncology ward that I knew I wanted to do more to make these clients’ time with me as relaxing, enjoyable, and memorable as possible,” Malone says
The mission is simple. Malone says, “I know I’m not performing rocket science by any means, but if I’m able to restore my client’s femininity or give someone a sense of normalcy for an hour or so, mission accomplished.”
Next page: Client Information Questionnaire and What Services to Offer