In celebration of Look Good Feel Better’s 25th year in Canada, we’ve named 25 Heritage Heroes who have helped the charity make it to 25 inspiring years of helping women and teens with cancer feel like themselves again, or currently play an important role and provide a powerful voice to keep the program alive for years to come.
Each of our 25 Heritage Heroes – one for each year of our program – exemplifies the very essence of Look Good Feel Better’s mission to empower and support women with cancer.
About 60 per cent of women who attend a Look Good Feel Better workshop are referred by their oncology team, which is why Dr. Gary Rodin and Dr. Marg Fitch, steadfast supporters of the charity, have been named Heritage Heroes.
DR. GARY RODIN:
Dr. Gary Rodin, head of psychosocial oncology and palliative care at Toronto’s University Health Network, has been named a Look Good Feel Better Heritage Hero.
Rodin not only sees the value in the Look Good Feel Better workshop and recommends it to his patients, but he's also an advocate for incorporating better psychosocial support for cancer patients.
He plays an important role in the future of LGFB and cancer care.
“There’s a recognition that high quality cancer treatment should involve chemo, radiation, but it should also provide high quality supportive care. It hasn’t been regarded in the past as a core part of cancer care. That’s what’s changing,” said Rodin. “We need to advocate for it and help to raise funds, help develop programs and raise awareness about these needs.”
“I see (Look Good Feel Better) as a part of person-centred care. It’s just one part of trying to support the person through the process.”
According to Rodin, the appearance-related effects can be the most disturbing part of a cancer diagnosis, because it “shows the world” that a woman has cancer.
“It is both about identity and physical appearance, but it’s also a sign they’re ill. It’s stigmatizing,” he said.
In his day-to-day work, Rodin helps women and men with cancer deal with these impacts of the disease.
“People should know about all of the psychosocial programs available,” he said, adding that he recommends Look Good Feel Better, among many other available programs to his patients.
“It’s the most inexpensive part of cancer care, but it's not funded enough,” he said. “If we can prevent the stress in cancer patients, we’ve made a big difference in their life. It can help the medical treatment, if the rest of it is being looked after.”
DR. MARGARET FITCH:
Toronto’s Dr. Marg Fitch has been named a Look Good Feel Better Heritage Hero for her role in developing the program in Canada 25 years ago and her continued advocacy for psychosocial support in cancer-care.
A professor with University of Toronto’s nursing program, Fitch recognizes the struggles a woman faces when diagnosed with cancer.
“If your skin has changed, if your hair has disappeared, your eyebrows have disappeared, then your sense of who you are has shattered in some way,” said Fitch. “Ones sense of identity and how you present yourself to the world with confidence is wrapped up with how you think you look.”
“Part of feeling better is how you look, how you feel about yourself.”
Recognizing those challenges, she rallied behind those who brought Look Good Feel Better to Canada in 1992 and helped develop the volunteer training, so LGFB volunteers would have a solid understanding of patient needs.
“At the beginning, there was no similar program like that around. It was at a point in time where there were very few support programs … and yet there were many people who were saying, ‘I would like information, I’d like help,’” she said.
And while she admits there’s been “remarkable progress” when it comes to incorporating psychosocial support in cancer care, there’s still a long way to go.
“Unfortunately, we’re still at a point in time that when budgets are cut … psychosocial programs go first,” she said. “It’s a different experience for patients and family members now than it was 25 years ago. But the reality is, a cancer diagnosis is always going to have an impact – there will always be an emotional impact, we can’t deny that.”