Eivind Bjerke: Tender Touch and New Outlook
Several times a month, hair-dresser Eivind Bjerke goes to the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University Hospital and talks to women with cancer. He is one of a team of hair stylists, makeup artists, manicurists, and others who take part in the Look Good … Feel Better program, which picks up where health professionals leave off, teaching people how to live with the side effects of cancer.
“It’s traumatic for a woman when she loses her hair,” says Bjerke, who helps mostly women and some men and children, too. His youngest cancer client was six years old.
Bjerke’s specialty is wigs, scarves, and turbans, “Very often when you first lose your hair, your scalp is very sensitive,” he says, “But we have these wonderful cotton turbans, They keep your hair from falling on your clothes or your food. Also, when you lose your hair, these help keep you warm in wintertime. ”
Bjerke got involved four years ago, “Doctors have always treated the inside. Then the patients would go home and pull a cover over their heads. But all that has changed, because the medical community is behind us, realizing how important this is. It’s what you see in the mirror that makes you want to go out and face the world or go back to bed and forget about it .”
He has had to deal with all the emotions that go along with cancer. Patients have thrown wigs at him in frustration and shared their sorrows with him.
He also talks to women at Howard, Sibley, and George Washington hospitals and at the American Cancer Society, which has a “wig bank for women who can’t afford to buy one. Bjerke washes donated wigs, conditions and styles them, and returns them to the Cancer Society to give away. He also travels around the country selling other communities on the program.
Look Good . . Feel Better isn’t just for the cancer patients, says Bjerke. “It’s for the family and friends around them. When you are able to present yourself looking normal, there’s something psychological that happens not only to the patient but to the people around you. It gives everybody a better quality of life.”
Bjerke grew up in a family of twelve children, so he learned early not to go through life thinking just about himself.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” he says, “I have a very nice clientele, I’ve flown all over the world with President and Mrs. Carter. I have had a lot of very famous people deal with. But there’s more to life.”