The Hopemore: A Specialty Spa for Cancer Survivors

September 2022 Vol 13, No 9

Categories:

Survivorship

The Hopemore spa offers specialty spa services to cancer survivors, but it is also just like any other luxury spa. This unique dual-focus design allows it to provide an inviting and relaxing spa atmosphere to all their clients while at the same time providing discreet services to patients with cancer, according to Jeanna Doyle, spa owner, and Kris Astroff, director of skincare at The Hopemore spa.

“Having a dual menu sounds like we have a split personality, but we were very clever when we came up with this,” said Ms Doyle at the 2022 AONN+ Midyear Conference in Austin, TX. “Because it’s called The Hopemore spa, and not Betty Sue’s Cancer Salon, nobody knows why you’re coming to us. Clients have anonymity built in, and they have that anonymity because we do both.”

According to Ms Doyle, the spa offers 2 complete menus: one menu is a full set of luxury services (similar to any high-end spa), and the other is a complete oncology aesthetics menu offering wig-buying, makeup/corrective makeup, skincare, and hair-loss services. The spa also offers virtual consultations, as well as an informative oncology beauty podcast (with a Spanish-language version coming soon).

“When I say we have a complete oncology menu, it’s not like when you go to a steak house and they have 1 salad to offer a vegetarian,” said Ms Doyle. “We have a complete menu of services that are focused on oncology aesthetics.”

The Hopemore spa is located in downtown Dallas inside the flagship Neiman Marcus store (although not affiliated), and it is conveniently located near all of the hospitals in the area. They offer free valet and elevators for ease of access, a private waiting room, and a private entrance if the client prefers it; all software and communication are HIPAA compliant.

“We intentionally designed it with a very glamorous, gender-neutral aesthetic,” said Ms Doyle. “It’s not sleepy.”

Paying It Forward

“You might be thinking that our spa sounds like a high-end ticket,” said Ms Doyle. “Yes, if you’re coming for the luxury side, but for our oncology services we were very intentional with our price point: nothing on the oncology menu in store is over $60.”

In addition to lower prices for oncology services, the spa’s Pay It Forward program asks clients from the “everyday aesthetics” side if they would like to pay it forward and support a patient with cancer during the checkout process.

“Almost always, they do,” said Ms Astroff, noting that they are not referred to as “patients” at the spa, only “clients.”

Donations are allowed from $1, but it’s not unusual for the spa to receive generous “pay it forward” donations of $500 and $1000. No matter the amount, the funds are held under a file called “oncology patient,” and as patients come in, that money is used on a rolling basis to cover the cost of services.

“If we have the funds to do so, we zero out their balance for service,” she said. “To date, we’ve only had about 10 patients pay for their service, because we’ve had a lot of very generous patrons.”

To help pay for what is not covered through the Pay It Forward program, some hospitals in the area also help to fund oncology client services through grants, Ms Doyle added.

Extending Their Reach

The Hopemore spa always set out to build a virtual platform to help patients outside Dallas, but during COVID it became a necessity. All of their oncology aesthetics services are now offered through a virtual format, and although the price point is slightly higher for virtual services, the Pay It Forward program can still be used to cover the cost.

Ms Astroff offers virtual skin consults after patients complete a lengthy intake form and can then dropship appropriate products to the client (after communicating with their oncology team). Ms Doyle can help patients shop for wigs virtually (she also authored the first and only guide on wig buying, called Wig ED), and she teaches corrective makeup techniques to help restore the appearance of eyebrows and eyelashes.

The Hopemore podcast was intentionally designed to be straightforward and informative. “We didn’t want any banter or fluff,” said Ms Doyle. “This is not a driving-to-work, feel-good type of podcast. We think of it like an audio brochure to get information out to people, addressing questions that we get asked a lot.”

It covers topics such as what an oncology-trained aesthetician is and what they can do for survivors, information about wig shopping and what to look for in a wig (as well as how to get insurance to cover it), skincare and wound healing, makeup application, bathroom safety tips, and a “Girlfriend’s Guide” with guidance on how to talk to family and friends about a cancer diagnosis. Most episodes are brief—under 10 minutes—and transcriptions are provided and can be sent directly to a person’s e-mail inbox.

The Hopemore Spa Approach to Salon Services

According to Ms Doyle, they prefer understated makeup applications. She noted that they are not proponents of microneedling the brows; they only use simple techniques (with eyeshadow and water) that can be used at any stage of hair loss or regrowth. If a patient is doing a virtual visit, they are sent a brow kit in advance and can follow along as Ms Doyle teaches the technique.

“These techniques are designed to give dimension and believability, as well as a sense of normalcy,” she said. “I’ve taught these techniques to people who have never done makeup, and every time, they tell me how easy it is. That’s the point; nobody wants a fancy makeup artist doing your makeup that you can’t duplicate at home.”

Their approach to lashes is similar, foregoing false lashes in favor of a simple technique that gives the illusion of a lash line (without the projection) and stays put even on watery eyes.

The same goes for wigs; looking natural is best for most patients. “You don’t want to have to rise to the occasion of your wig,” she said.

Ms Doyle prefers synthetic wigs, as upkeep is much easier than with human hair. “With a human hair wig, think about washing your cat in the sink and then trying to style it, and not on your head,” she joked.

“We like to empower people with information so that they know what they’re saying no to, if they choose not to wear a wig,” she added. “But fear of it looking fake should not be a factor; it should just be a comfort or lifestyle choice.”

She also emphasized that a wig can be integral to providing a person with privacy. “Because if you suddenly lose your hair, you suddenly lose your privacy, and that’s a fact,” she said.

The spa also offers services for the “long and awkward” period after initial hair loss (ie, scarf-tying techniques, grow-back strategies, styling, extensions, etc), when hair might be growing in sparsely or just plain differently than it did before cancer treatment.

Maintaining Healthy Skin During Treatment

Ms Astroff is a highly trained oncology aesthetician skilled at finding solutions for the impacts of cancer treatment on the skin, particularly during radiation. She tailors each skincare plan to each individual patient, and with presurgery/radiation skincare regimens she preps and hydrates the skin and tissue so that patients have better outcomes after treatment.

“I help to mitigate the aesthetic-related changes that patients face due to various courses of treatment,” she explained. “That means largely protecting the barrier function for the patient.”

Clinical data support the use of all products used for oncology patients at the spa, but Ms Astroff noted that communication between a patient’s oncology team is always paramount before starting a skincare regimen, and she never goes against an oncologist’s wishes for a patient.

“If an oncologist says they only want their patient using aloe vera and Aquaphor during radiation—great—I will not give them anything else,” she said. “I’ll treat them when they’re done.”

She shared a case study of a woman who underwent radiation, for whom the goal was reducing the effects of radiation dermatitis.

“I had 8 weeks to try and affect change within the skin, and we got it back to baseline,” she said. “When she had her follow-up with her surgeon, he accused her of not finishing radiation. He actually called the radiation oncologist to confirm, insisting that the tissue shouldn’t look like it did.”

Ms Astroff tailors skincare regimens for patients at all stages of treatment. “Sometimes it’s after treatment—they’ve been burned, and they’re wondering if that pigmentation can ever be resolved,” she noted. When patients are not yet cleared for any aggressive/acidic treatments, she relies on natural depigmenters like date and apple extract, which can lead to significant changes.

Importantly, these individualized protocols can be maintained by patients at home.

“Just as no 2 cancers are the same, we look at our clients the same way,” said Ms Doyle. “We may be doing the same type of service—like skincare after radiation or corrective makeup—but it’s always tailored to each individual.”

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Last modified: November 15, 2022

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