Client Health

On My Mind: A Personal Story About Personal Touch

As service providers in the beauty industry, you have the opportunity to touch your clients' (and their familes') lives. Editor Hannah Lee shares her personal story.

What I’m getting ready to write isn’t easy. And please bear with me if it’s slightly off topic. In February, my mother lost her battle with cancer. I guess that’s how people explain it, ­although she wasn’t really actively battling it for the last year or so. She had been a hospice patient since October 2009. The goal of palliative care is basically pain management and improved quality of life. And I can attest that the last year of my mom’s life was better for having been in the Charlotte, N.C., hospice program.

Through it all, my mom lived on her own terms. She continued to do most of the same things (and maybe even more) that she did before she got sick three years ago. She was incredibly social. She was always positive and upbeat. She got dressed up every day. And she continued to get her hair done every six weeks and her pedicures every three weeks. She liked the normalcy of it all. And she enjoyed the personal contact that came with going to the salon. It made her feel like she wasn’t sick.

<p>My mom and I always got pedicures together when I went back east for the holidays. It was one of the things she always looked forward to because she got to get a pedicure and see me “at work,” which made her very proud. (That's us in a salon in Norfolk, Va. in 2005.)</p>

During her final month when she simply couldn’t get out of the house anymore, we talked about having someone come to our house to give her a pedicure and do her hair. She liked that idea. (Hospice would have even provided volunteer cosmetologists.) Sadly, that never happened. But spending those last three weeks with her allowed me to see some of the day-to-day contact with other service providers — namely her acupuncturist/massage therapist and her hospice nurse.

The importance of personal touch became real for me in a way I couldn’t have understood before that last month. As salon professionals, you have close relationships with your clients. There’s real power that comes with the intimacy of holding someone’s hands for an hour while doing her nails. But it was more apparent than ever when I saw the attention the massage therapist paid to my dear mother when she was clearly struggling to stay upbeat.

More than anyone, the hospice nurse was the person whose personal touch reached not just my mother (her patient/client) but the whole family. She was there for us when we needed her. And I just kept thinking in this heart-breaking time how wonderful it was that we had these people in our lives who weren’t friends or family, but were in some ways closer to my mom than many, and who were able to offer their own specialties to help lift her up. It’s truly a gift to be able to touch someone’s life in a time of extreme vulnerability, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how nail techs are that person to many of their clients. So on behalf of those clients who are struggling, even those you don’t know are struggling, I want to say thank you. Thank you from the client, who might not be able to say thank you any more. And thank you from her family, who you might have never met, but who appreciate the personal touch you offered to their loved one.

<p>That's me and my mom getting pedicures at Zoe Nail Spa in Charlotte, N.C., in December 2006.</p>

(One last thank you: I’d like to thank the NAILS team for keeping everything running smoothly when I was out dealing with my mom’s illness and afterwards, trying to deal with her death. And a special thank you to Sree Roy for stepping in and writing this page last month.)


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