Longtime Harbor resident Pat Gordon has been involved with helping cancer patients for around 52 years. She is the licensed cosmetologist who helps with the wigs given to women fighting cancer for the “Look Good, Feel Better” program at Grays Harbor Community Hospital. She also runs Pat’s Trim &Style, where people can come for help donating to Locks of Love, to get their wigs restyled or just for a cut and style. She also volunteers to help kids going through difficult times.
Have you experienced someone in your life with cancer?
My mother. I lost her to cancer 31 years ago.
Do you think she would have liked these programs?
She would have absolutely loved it and wanted to help out in a heartbeat. I learned from her. She was a very giving person. My daughter, Shelly, is the same way.
How are you involved with Locks of Love?
Through the “Look Good, Feel Better” program with people wanting to donate their hair. They pay for a haircut, but if they want I can take care of sweeping it up and shipping it out, they don’t have to pay for that part. That’s a small thing, we don’t get too many in here for that.
How did you originally get involved with “Look Good, Feel Better?”
I have worked with cancer patients for over 40 years now, well about 52 years now. I got more involved when my mother was diagnosed. She died 31 years ago. About 25 years ago, I started doing the “Look Good, Feel Better,” that’s where I really got involved. I’ve donated a lot of wigs to them.
Did they approach you for this?
They have to have a licensed cosmetologist to do this, which is why they need me. You get so much back for doing it I mean, I’ve gained friends that lasted years. It makes such a difference for people. They come in feeling awful and they leave looking and feeling better. You get to feeling sorry for yourself and you’ve got to get over that hump and say, “I’m not going to die.” That’s important.
Why do you think programs like this are important?
When they come in, most of them are pretty depressed. I mean, you’ve just been told you have cancer and when we get them there, we give them a free makeup kit … We have them put the makeup on and we help them if they need it. We have wigs there. If they pick one out, we cut and dye it any color they want for free. When I started about 25 years ago, I was supposed to bill the Cancer Society for $5. I think I’ve done 10,000 at this point. They didn’t tell me. I didn’t want to charge for it anyway. It’s how I donate.
We see these people leave there. They’re smiling. They feel better about themselves. That’s the main thing. They feel sick, they’ve lost their coloring and hair — makeup really does make a difference. Sometimes we can talk them into trying on a couple different colored wigs. They can take three, four, more wigs, whatever they need.
Who would you recommend this program to?
Any woman going through cancer. They are entitled to the one-time makeover. They can come for help any time, but the makeover is just one time. We explain the cosmetics and match it up with their skin tone. Also help with the wigs. It’s on the first Wednesday of every month between 2 and 4 p.m. They should call me to make an appointment here at the shop at 360-532-5858 or 537-6190. Sometimes we get a call from Tacoma that someone will be there and we show up but no one’s there so I just prefer to do it myself.
Is there a program for men?
I think they do in other areas. They have some things for those with prostate cancer. There’s another program for breast cancer. Helen Eklund, who does “Look Good, Feel Better” with me, also volunteers at the Cancer Resource Center so she’s very busy.
How long have you been working on hair?
I’ve been doing hair for 52 years and I’ve been in business for 42, so I’ve seen a lot. I’ve been doing wigs, I started at Norma’s, for 45 years. As far as I know, I’m the only wig person who does wigs and cuts them too. A lot of operators are afraid of them because if you mess up, it doesn’t grow back!
Are you also involved with Relay For Life?
Yeah, I’ve done it every year. For the past 10 years, I’ve been associated with Bob Muhlhauser’s team. I baked a wild blackberry for their last meeting and they got $155 for it, which was just great.
Do you do any other volunteer work?
I’m a full-time volunteer, every Monday, at Robert Gray. I take pizza and sweets and the counselor takes a child who is having trouble making friends or has had something terrible like a death in the family happen to them to have a special lunch. They are told a week in advance and can bring five other kids. That makes the other kids really like the one kid. That’s one of my pet projects. I was bullied growing up. Sometimes you have to pick the bully too because then they learn they don’t have to act out to get attention. I’ve been doing it about 20 years.
I now have kids that are fully grown who come to visit. It’s fun. They don’t know my name, I’m just “pizza lady.” The kids think I work at Domino’s, who have been great and given me great deals to be able to do this every week.