Frances Lehrer got a surprise visit in her patient room last month. A volunteer from Face in the Mirror was there to give the 74-year-old, sprightly woman a bit of pampering. Lehrer’s response to the treatment: She was as giddy as a teenage girl.
“Your inner feeling is uplifted. It’s an enjoyment to do this,” Lehrer said of the care. “It’s a feeling that you’re a human being. When you survive hospice, your attitude is 'Who cares.’ With this, someone cares and you are the best you can be and it’s just fun.”
Lehrer was discharged this week , but she won’t forget the special attention she got during her hospital stay.
Face in the Mirror is a Valley-based organization with a corps of 40 volunteers in local hospitals who help pamper women and men suffering from cancer and other diseases.
In its fifth year, the organization recently branched out, now spending time with children at Phoenix Children’s Hospital as part of an outreach called All About Us Kids. Volunteers also visit with children during Camp Rainbow, a weeklong summer camp for children who have undergone care at the hospital’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
And founder Barbara MacLean plans to have All About Us Kids volunteers in Banner Children’s Hospital when the new facility opens later this year.
MacLean said Face in the Mirror was inspired by her sister.
When MacLean visited her sister before her death in 2001 in Kentucky, MacLean suggested a day of beauty.
Her sister’s initial response was, “Why?” because during the 10 years she had suffered with cancer, no one else had given care to help her appearance.
But after a few minutes — and a bit of blush, eye makeup and a brushing of her wig — MacLean saw her sister’s whole attitude change.
“She said, 'I’m pretty. Take my picture.’” After a moment, MacLean’s sister told her she had to do this for others.
After her sister’s death, that’s exactly what MacLean set out to do.
She has been honored by former President George W. Bush and is expanding her nonprofit’s services into cities nationwide.
The requests for help continue to grow.
“I could use 300 volunteers and still not fulfill everyone’s requests,” MacLean said.
One volunteer is Patricia Berkeley, an eight-year cancer survivor.
“I know what it’s like to be the face in the mirror,” Berkeley said. “I remember when I lost all my hair and had no eyebrows.”
Berkeley said during her recovery she went to a makeup counter and asked for help. She still remembers that day and the changes she felt after seeing her appearance freshened up by makeup and care.
Now she tries to create that for others.
Right now, Berkeley is the only Face in the Mirror volunteer at Mesa’s Banner Desert Medical Center, but there are others in training to join her this spring.
Through donations of beauty products, toys for the children, and bags to deliver everything in, MacLean tries to help one patient at a time.
“The idea is to go into the room and pamper her and give her love and care and touch,” MacLean said. “It’s about women, not just the cancer.”
It’s often that human touch that makes the difference, she said. She shared one story of an AIDS patient moved to tears after a volunteer massaged his hands.
“He said, 'No one has touched me in a long time,’” MacLean said.
Berkeley said the family and caregivers of the patient often respond as much as the patient, seeing the patient as the person she is and not just someone who is sick.
“One patient told me, 'It gave us hope that I could recover,’” Berkeley said.