Jody Schwartz and Gayle Wasserman, both of Highland Park, didn’t know each other before they were seated side by side for a manicure June 4 at Serene Nails in Highland Park.
Schwartz was there for Cancer Survivor Beauty and Support Day. Wasserman never heard of the event.
Founded by Highland Park resident Barbara Paget 16 years ago, Cancer Survivor Beauty and Support Day occurs each year on the first Tuesday in June and involves salons across the country and beyond offering free services such as hair styling, manicures and more to cancer survivors.
Schwartz, 65 and a retired Highland Park High School English teacher, was diagnosed with uterine cancer four years ago and has been free of the disease for three years. Wasserman, whose mother lives in Florida and has cancer, listened intently.
As Schwartz was waiting for a friend, Mindy Ugolini, a cancer survivor from Deerfield, to join her at the nail salon, she told Wasserman what the event means.
“This is a gift,” Schwartz said. “It feels so good to be spoiled and pampered like this.”
A light went off in Wasserman’s head.
“I’m going to call my mother (in Florida) and tell her about it so she can do it, too,” Wasserman said.
Along with the manicure, Schwartz said she and Ugolini planned to go to North Shore Salt Therapy Center in Highland Park and Ugolini said she also planned to get a haircut and blow dry.
Ugolini, now 52, said she was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 35.
“They usually don’t give someone a mammogram when they’re 35, but they did for me,” Ugolini said. “I’ve never had another one,” adding she has been cancer free for 17 years
Already a customer of Serene Nails, Ugolini said the shop owner told her about the annual day five years ago and she has been partaking since. Three years ago, she invited her former English teacher, Schwartz, to join her. They continue to go together.
“I love it,” Ugolini said. “You get such a special feeling.”
When Schwartz and Ugolini walked into Serene, Jennifer Morales of Lake Forest and her friend, Teri Nosek of Kenosha, Wis., were already getting a pedicure. They started their day of at BloOuts Blow Dry Bar in Highland Park.
Morales, 47 and diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 23, learned about the day reading an advertisement. She contacted Nosek, diagnosed with bladder cancer 18 years ago, and insisted they spend the day together getting pampered.
“I feel amazing,” Morales said. “Yesterday was my birthday, I ran a half marathon Sunday and I’m here today. I raise a lot of money to fight cancer, but today someone is doing something for me.”
Steve Sadin is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.
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