When Jill Lauder lost three close friends to cancer she began thinking of ways of using her hairdressing skills to help other patients.
The owner of Lady J’s Unisex Salon in Grangemouth has been operating out of her premises in Dundas Street for three years.
Jill said: “I had three close friends, Christine Polson, Sharon Hamilton and Nanette Donoghue, who were all battling cancer at the same time. They didn’t actually know each other but they were all good friends with me.
“Christine used to come down to the shop and I would give her a haircut – she was losing her hair by then due to her treatments, but we had a great laugh listening to Elvis songs.
“I would massage her head, I didn’t know how to do it properly – I’m self taught – but I just wanted to make her feel better.”
Sadly all three of Jill’s pals would eventually lose their fight against cancer, but they would provide the inspiration for a monthly voluntary initiative that would help lots more female cancer patients.
Jill doing what she could to make her friends feel better was the beginning of what would become the Feel Good Project, but a conversation with another friend, Sandra Campbell, back in 2012 really got the ball rolling.
Jill said: “I didn’t know that Sandra was a Macmillan nursing consultant when I started talking to her about this idea to help people. The two of us came up with the basic blueprint for the Feel Good Project – although it wasn’t until 2014 that we got it up and running.
“We had been talking about it for a year and I was fed up waiting so I just said, let’s start doing it now. It immediately got a lot of support from the community and local businesses.”
Every month two Macmillan nurses come along to give support, information and advice to the women who drop into Lady J’s – and they are just one part of the gang of volunteers who regularly give up their time to help.
Jill said: “We have Zi and Morag from Boots in Falkirk’s Central Retail Park, Susan Sharp Miele from Cafe Wow and the Feel Good Centre in Grangemouth, which has supported us since the start with fundraising coffee mornings and other events.
“My regular customers have also been an amazing help.”
The Feel Good Project takes place at Lady J’s on the first Monday of every month, running from noon to 3pm, when the Salon throws its doors open to any woman with cancer who is experiencing hair loss due to their treatment.
“It can range between six to 15 people coming in on the day,” said Jill. “There are a variety of options available to people if they are losing their hair. We can cut it off and fit them with a wig.”
Jill has been trained in the art of wig cutting and fitting by none other than hairdressing superstar Trevor Sorbie, through his My New Hair charity.
The charity provides public advice and supports a national network of independent salons and professionals who provide a wig styling service for people suffering from cancer and medical hair loss.
“There is a wide choice of wigs available,” said Jill. “We buy them with the money people raise for the project. People can come here and try on a few without feeling embarrassed and just get comfortable with them.
“Not everyone wants to wear a wig, so we also have bandanas with jewellery for all kinds of different looks. Zi and Morag are on hand with make-up tips to show the ladies they can still look and feel glamorous.”
Tea, soup and home baking, provided by Jill’s friends and customers, is available on the day as well. The support also comes from Jill’s 70-year-old mum Elsie Lucas who started knitting hats for the clients and is now a valuable member of the Feel Good volunteers.
Jill could not do all this without her “right hand woman” at Lady J’s, Pauline Macleod, who is always busy making coffees and making sure the clients are looked after like the VIPs they are.
Pauline said: “We just want them to feel special and important. It’s a social gathering but it also allows the ladies to meet others who are in the same situation they are in and experiencing the same things.
“There are real friendships made on the Feel Good days that continue afterwards.”
Each Feel Good Project client gets a goodie bag and there are also vouchers for the Feel Good Centre in La Porte Precinct, which has a range of power assisted gym equipment. Jill said: “It’s just our way of saying, you’re on the road to recovery. We really spoil our ladies. There is certainly more fun and laughter than there are tears, that’s for sure.
“You see people going out of here feeling happy. Just to be able to see that and know you’ve played a part in it, makes you feel ten feet tall.”
The next Feel Good Day takes place on Monday, October 3 from noon to 3pm.
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