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Cancer and cosmetics: AHN class empowers women

A popular program through Allegheny Health Network’s Cancer Institute is back this fall and is helping women diagnosed with cancer find support and address issues related to their battle.

“Care and Cosmetics” is a self-care and educational program for cancer patients and survivors and it’s moving to an all-virtual format this fall.

Laurin Scanlon, director of volunteer resources with the AHN Cancer Institute and Outpatient Facilities, said her goal in creating and hosting this program is to treat the whole person and not just their diagnosis.

“At our in-person classes, we were able to see patients from local communities who did not know each other walk into our classroom setting and bond over their experiences,” Scalon said. “Maybe they were both mothers juggling childcare, chemotherapy and a full-time job, or perhaps they were going through hair loss at the same time.

It was amazing to have these brave women open up and share their stories and let one another know they were not alone,” she added. “What started as a makeup class finished as support group.”

Scanlon said she got the idea to create the program early in 2019.

“I knew early on that I wanted to make sure the program would be inclusive of those who were newly diagnosed, in active treatment, or survivors in the community,” she said. “I would also want the program to be offered free of charge, not just AHN patients, but anyone in the communities we serve to be a part of.”

More than makeup

Scanlon’s original plan was create a new volunteer role for licensed cosmetologists to teach a class and help empower women who have been diagnosed with cancer.

“The class would not only go over make-up techniques, head wraps and wigs,” Scanlon said, “but it would also have an element of patient education and supportive services provided by our AHNCI clinical team. Incorporating these two concepts into one program would give us the opportunity to provide support in a way never done before.”

The goal is to give real-time answers to frequently asked questions such as what causes hair loss and how likely it is to happen, Scanlon said.

“Our goal is to help those affected by cancer enhance their features without changing who they are,” she said. “We want them to feel more like themselves.”

Each class participant will receive a bag with items like concealer, eyebrow pencil, eyeshadow, false eyelashes, makeup wipes and mascara.

“It was important to ensure that all of the makeup products we put in these bags were paraben free, hypo allergenic, vegan friendly and cruelty free,” Scanlon said.

In addition to the makeup bag, participants will receive a soft cap donated by Hair Peace Charities.

“Hair Peace was started by Bonny Diver and assists patients whose insurance does not cover the cost of a wig,” Scanlon said. “We were able to secure donations to cover the costs of the makeup bags from local donors and pilot the program at our newly opened AHN Cancer Institute locations in Beaver and Butler in December 2019.”

Turnout at last year’s classes was good and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, Scanlon said.

“Those who attended said it was very valuable, that they would refer the class to other cancer patients/survivors and that there was such a need for a program like this in their community,” she said.

Moving to virtual classes

Since the pilot program ended, Scanlon has been able to secure donations from individuals and groups to expand the program to include 11 of AHN Cancer Institute locations. This fall, the COVID-19 pandemic is prompting the Cancer and Cosmetics classes to move to an all-virtual online format.

“Migrating to a digital platform was unique,” Scanlon said. “Once we had the approvals and were able to get setup, our AHNCI Care & Cosmetics team was quick to support the effort and get classes scheduled as soon as we could. We wanted to eliminate any barriers to provide this type of experience and to ensure that our participants had a way to connect.”

Participants will be able to access the classes via computer, tablet, smart phone or landline telephone. Registered participants will be able to pick-up their free makeup bag and turban at various AHN locations one week prior to each class. During the classes, instructors will review what the items are and how to use them. Participants can still ask questions via phone or through the computer like they would in a real class setting and Scanlon said those connecting online will have the opportunity to turn their camera on if they choose and interact with other participants, the cosmetologist and AHNCI staff.

The Cancer & Cosmetics classes will be offered from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 and from 10 to 11 a.m. Dec. 11.

Anyone who has been newly diagnosed with cancer, is currently in treatment or is a survivor may register by calling 412-330-4045. For those interested in donating, or who are a licensed cosmetologist willing to donate time to teach a class, email

The trials and tribulations of education during a pandemic

Education matters to me. I know education is more than academics. Socialization, peer competition, sports, theater, concerts, clubs, interactions with teachers and mentors, just hanging out in the cafeteria. So much is different this new school year.

I am thrilled to spend time with young people. I asked them how they felt now that they were back in school:

I’m so happy I’m not stuck in the house all day. No offense mom and dad and my brothers. I was really kinda tired of you.


I lost so much from my senior year. I had images in my mind of graduation that never happened. You know what’s funny, though? I’m proud of myself. I’m a better person now than I was in March. I learned how strong I could be. College is different than normal, too, I guess, but it’s my first year and I’m loving it so far. It’s normal for me.


My school is hybrid. I thought I would hate it, but I don’t. I get to see my friends twice a week and doing remote the rest of the time isn’t as hard as it was in the spring, when everything was online. I wouldn’t have chosen this, but I know I can handle it.


I feel like some of my teachers are just doing the bare minimum, you know? I like school and I like academics. I need to take SATs this year and think about colleges. I wonder if SATs will matter anymore. My guidance counselor told us to get involved in community service and extracurriculars to make our college applications strong. It’s hard to do that now. I’m hoping things get better after the first of the year.


I started sixth grade this fall and that’s weird. My parents have been preparing me for this huge change when I would meet a lot of new kids. Nope. I feel like I’m in a bubble with the kids who go to school the two days I’m there. It’s interesting. I think I like that there are fewer kids.


We’re all remote. I’m done with that.


I love that I can see my school guidance counselor again. She gets me.


I feel like I’m grieving what could have been. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. There are experiences I’ve lost that will never come back. In time, I guess this whole mess will make me stronger, but right now, I’m mostly angry.


My parents both work from home, and that’s OK, but I can’t lie. When I heard we were going back to school full time, I did a little dance inside. They’re good parents, but … wow. I needed a break.


I miss a lot of stuff. I miss riding the bus. My mom takes me to school and picks me up. I miss just hanging out before and after class. I miss eating lunch in the cafeteria. I also am happy. I’m happy to be back at school, even if its hybrid. I’m happy to see my friends. I’m happy two days of the week I don’t need to learn online, even though I’m good at online stuff. Sometimes I look around at the way things have changed and I pinch myself because it’s hard to remember how it was before COVID-19.


My pap is pretty old and he’s had cancer. I’m just glad he hasn’t caught COVID-19. I want him to see me graduate from high school and college, so I don’t mind any inconvenience I need to make to keep him safe.


My gram says we need to all take care of one another and pray for things to get better. I listen to her. She gives me hope. Right now, I’m just glad I can play football.


My teachers are doing a great job. It’s not easy, but they’re putting their hearts into this. For us. I never thought of it before, but I think I might want to be a teacher when I’m a grown up. Teachers do a very important job.


Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email

Not loving the likes

Q. My boyfriend follows more than 3,000 people on Instagram. And almost all of them are women. It didn’t bother me when we first started dating, because I figured that now that he had a girlfriend, he’d stop investing so much time in looking at women.

A few months into our relationship, he was showing me something on his profile when I caught a glimpse of a notification indicating that he had commented on a girl’s photo. I asked him about it. He tried to play it off. Of course, I remembered the girl’s username and looked up her profile. I was surprised to see that he had “liked” and commented on a lot of her pics. And he said some flirty things to her are things that he also said to me.

I confronted him. I said that I get it: Men look at women. I mean, hello – it’s Instagram. And I even said it wouldn’t bother me if he just “liked” their photos. But to comment with a bunch of flirtatious emojis is disrespectful. It makes me look like a fool because these women know that we’re dating. So, he said that he’d stop.

However, in March, it came to my attention that he again was commenting on a lot of women’s pictures. I told him I thought he understood where I was coming from. His excuses are that he’s not going out to cheat; he’s not sending them private messages; it’s not a big deal because it’s online; and that, in real life, he’s with me. But I told him he’s missing the point. I told him the fact that he knows it bothers me yet he keeps doing it means he’s disregarding my feelings and just doesn’t care. Can I get your advice, please? – Disliking It

A. You’re asking for so little, and he’s giving you even less.

Your assessment of the problem is spot-on: It’s not even his behavior on Instagram, per se. It’s that you told him how you feel about it, and he’s disregarding that.

Reiterate to him again that you feel hurt when he flirts with other women on Instagram, and it would mean a lot to you if he would stop. If he persists after that point, then he’s not going to change anytime soon, and you have to decide whether you can live with his behavior.

Dear Annie: It may not be enough this November to simply drop your ballot in the mail shortly after you receive it and assume that it’s going to be received in time to count, especially if you receive your mail-in ballot within just a week or two of the election. Return postage that is preprinted on the ballots is bulk rate

– the lowest priority and usually the last mail to be delivered. What everyone needs to do (unless you are dropping off your ballot in person or voting in person) is spring for a 55-cent stamp to put on their mail-in ballot, thus elevating it to the status of first-class mail, which gets much higher priority. Spread the word, please. – Gerry Schwartz

Dear Gerry: I know that USPS does everything it can to ensure that ballots get where they’re going. But this is a year like no other, and I encourage everyone to mail in their ballots as soon as possible so that they can successfully exercise one of their most important rights as Americans. On their website, USPS states: “Contact your local election officials about ballot submission deadlines and other information that will help ensure your vote is counted.”

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