When Jackelyn Kastanis figured out her childhood best friend, Brooke, was diagnosed with cancer, she dropped everything to be close to her. She not only remained with her in the medical clinic, she attempted to give her a feeling of normalcy and beauty.
“She was told at 27 years old she had a year to live. Once I found out she was very sick I came home and I took up residency with her in her hospital room,” Kastanis told CBS News. “And I realized it was a very stale environment, it was very sad on her psyche. There was nothing to kind of motivate her to feel like herself and to feel pretty.”
“And so, I brought hair and makeup and tried anything to lift her spirits,” Kastanis said. “And she, believe it or not, started taking less morphine, and it changed her entire persona.”
Jackelyn wanted to figure out how to replicate that mood boost for other ladies who are engaged in cancerous battles. She said beauty comes from the inside out, but when you’re in the hospital, now and then you simply need some human interaction.
Thus, she began visiting hospitals, with volunteers she refers to as her ‘glam girls,’ to give beauty items and makeovers to ladies and young girls battling the illness.
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Her charitable Simply From The Heart began in Illinois, however volunteers have begun to set up chapters across the US, and the drop off locations for those who want to help include Hinsdale, Illinois and Chicago, Illinois.
They fill ‘glam boxes’ with 30 beauty products, donated from people and corporations, and take them to individuals in the hospital. Starting around 2014, they have assembled thousands of glam boxes and have left a lasting impression, touching the lives of more than 5,000 patients.
They even have ‘the ultimate mobile glam squad’.
“It gives them the distraction that they need,” Kastanis said. “I feel that Brooke was identified by her illness, and that was what killed me the most.” Brooke died in 2011 but Kastanis still works to help make other people feel confident, just like she did her best friend.
“I wanted it to be an experience that felt like Christmas morning, or a birthday, or something just so magical,” she said. “So I thought the glam box, with 30 beauty products — it’s a memory. A memory wrapped up in a box that they can open and reuse.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, aside from skin cancers. It can spring up at any age, but the risk tends to go up as you get older. Because of this, medication and treatments assist them with recovering, but friendship, a little glam, and kindness really help to reignite the light inside them and give them hope.
“One patient, I remember her saying, ‘These girls healed me in a way the doctors could not.’ And I think that spoke a lot to us,” said Kastanis. “You know, we have our doctors and they keep us alive. But emotionally, we all want our souls to feel sparked up to get us through.”