September 20, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Something wonderful may soon happen in Northeast Oregon: More women cancer patients will look in the mirror and like what they see.

An American Cancer Society program, Look Good...Feel Better, is the reason. The program is being offered at Grande Ronde Hospital. At each session, a trained volunteer cosmetologist teaches women how to cope with skin changes and hair loss caused by chemotherapy.

The free classes are taught by volunteer Paula Maples of Cove. She is a cancer survivor and a licensed cosmetologist.

"I was a cancer patient myself. This is my way of giving back,'' Maples said.

At each class, women are shown how to use cosmetics to help their skin. They also discover how to use wigs, scarves and hats to disguise hair loss. Each patient can receive two free wigs, scarves and cosmetic products.

Maples wants to help women go out into the public and maintain their daily routines without having people realize that they are receiving chemotherapy. Maples was able to do this while she received treatment.

"I've been where they've been and want their lives to be as normal as possible,'' Maples said.

Patients need to attend just one session to learn what they need. They may come back to later sessions to learn things such as how to adjust to their cosmetics for changing seasons.

No medical tips are given at the classes.

"I'm not a doctor,'' said Maples, who came to the Grande Ronde Valley a

year ago from Modesto, Calif.

Look Good...Feel Better classes are put on throughout the nation by the American Cancer Society.

The classes are also sponsored by the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association and the National Cosmetology Association.

In addition to tips on looking good, patients receive emotional support from other women who are experiencing the same thing they are.

"It is like a ladies' night out. It is a nice pick-me-up,'' Maples said. "...This is about reminding women that they are still girls and that people care about them.''

Look Good...Feel Better classes are held the last Wednesday of every month in the Mount Emily Room of Grande Ronde Hospital. The classes start at 6 p.m. and last about 2 hours. The next class is Wednesday.

For information call Maples at 568-4318.