Nothing has been easy for Lucy Pastrana since she was first diagnosed with stage 4 advanced colon cancer last September. Surgery and adverse reactions to chemotherapy left her in the hospital and rehab for months, and she still has a long and painful road ahead.
But for one day in July, she was able to forget, for a little while at least, that she’s a patient, and instead just feel pampered.
That’s because Pastrana was the recipient of a head-to-toe surprise makeover from Pyara Spa and Salon in Burlington. The salon has partnered with Hello Gorgeous!, a nonprofit organization that gives women battling cancer a day of pampering that includes a professional makeover, cancer-specific beauty education, lunch, and even a surprise “reveal” party with their family and friends.
“It’s just an absolutely amazing program, where anyone can nominate a woman that they know who is battling cancer for this make-over,” says Pyara’s general manager, Steven Florio.
When Pastrana approached Pyara with her sister—who tricked Lucy into thinking she was going to a doctor’s appointment—the entire salon staff was waiting to greet her.
“You walk in, and they say, ‘Hello, Gorgeous!’” Pastrana remembers. “They make you know that it’s your day.”
Pyara owner Christine Perkins originally came across the Hello Gorgeous! program at a conference in January, and worked with Florio to bring it to the salon within just a few months.
“I had chills,” Perkins says. “I’m texting Steven like a ferocious beast: ‘Steven, we need this program!’”
Since April, Pyara Spa and Salon has surprised one woman each month with a day of beauty that includes a facial, manicure, pedicure, and hair cut or color, or even help with getting a high-quality wig and learning to wear, care for, and style it. The staff also greets her with flowers and candy, does her makeup, gives her a new outfit, and, later, surprises her with lunch with her friends and family at a nearby restaurant.
“It’s a true red-carpet experience,” Florio says. “We will have a red carpet rolled out for her, and the entire team will be at the door to greet and welcome her.”
Pastrana says she was in “total shock” and extremely emotional throughout the entire experience.
“Literally, I cried in every room I went to. What they do at that spa is amazing,” Pastrana says. “You’re completely relaxed; they give you a robe and hot towels. I said, ‘I feel like I’m on The Oprah Winfrey Show.’”
Partnering with Hello Gorgeous! to provide these experiences has involved a lot of work and cooperation. Dozens of Pyara Spa and Salon staff members have been trained and certified by Hello Gorgeous! to learn how to modify treatments to make them safe and appropriate for women with cancer.
For instance, Perkins says they learned to never use metal nail tools and to always use new, out-of-the package materials to prevent infections in people with weakened immune systems. There are also certain massage and facial procedures the salon can’t perform on cancer patients.
“They know what they can and cannot do,” says Pastrana, who also marveled at how gentle the products they used on her were. “I got my hair highlighted. The color didn’t burn my scalp. I have no rash on my skin, not a thing.”
The training also covers how to handle things like hair or nail loss and makeup application for women who may have lost their eyelashes or eyebrows. Perkins says thinning hair is one of the salon’s “passions,” and they even carry an Aveda line that helps with hair growth.
Pastrana says the staff showed her how to apply makeup, gave her a gentle facial and a cleanser for her skin, and introduced her to the idea of wigs for her thinning hair.
“I would never [have] tried a wig,” she says. “It literally looked just like my hair.”
Pyara Spa and Salon has also partnered with other businesses and organizations on the North Shore to make the Hello Gorgeous! makeovers special. Tuscan Kitchen in Burlington is donating their space and two meals for the reveal parties, and Maurices in Haverhill supplied clothing for the first makeover. Other businesses are also donating or supplying products at a deep discount, with the salon picking up the tab for extras. For the women, everything is free.
Having cancer robs women of their health and strength. They endure painful medical procedures and spend countless hours in sterile hospital rooms.
“Sometimes when you’re going through something as awful and debilitating as cancer treatments, we don’t feel that inside power. We’re in that moment of helplessness,” Perkins says.
But making women feel pampered and cared for in a beautiful, gentle environment can work wonders to change that.
“You feel a little powerful, you walk a little taller, you feel a little stronger,” Perkins says. “We need to win. And that gives us the strength to keep going forward.”
Pyara Spa and Salon