by Maria LaPiana
Feb 22, 2013
12:45 PMWell, Now
Cancer Care: Back to Beauty
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It’s a warm summer evening and a handful of women—ranging in age from 35 to 60-plus—are beginning to gather around a conference table in a Trumbull meeting room; one by one they find a place, say hellos and drop handbags and briefcases on the floor. The conversations are polite, some more familiar than others. Some of the women reach for tea, water, crackers or crudités set out on a small table against the wall. Everyone admires Deborah Berry’s new ’do.
At the head of the table, Jennifer Ciamei gets the women’s attention, asks how they’re all doing, and jumps into tonight’s agenda: How well are her cancer-care products working? Is the moisturizer holding up in the warm weather? What do they think of the packaging she’s developing?
At once it’s clear this is a no-nonsense research meeting, conducted by Ciamei to test and assess the efficacy of products and treatments she’s developed to help women cope with the side effects of cancer treatments.
But the gathering is more personal than that; it’s a palpable support system for the women in the room—and another step in the journey that began for Ciamei at age 6, when her mother, Marcia, then 39, was diagnosed with leukemia. As a young girl, she remembers the helplessness she felt during her mother’s long and aggressive treatment, an ordeal that lasted six years, until she went into remission (she later passed away at 54 from complications).
“Everything about her was beaten down, her bones, her blood cells, her immune system,” says Ciamei, now 39. “But the hardest part for me was seeing how her beauty and wellness were taken away from her. I saw her so depressed over the years, and I remember wondering if there wasn’t a way to help women like her.”
The memory stayed.
Pursuing an interest in cosmetology, Ciamei became a hair salon assistant at 15, was certified as an esthetician after high school, and gained experience in several Fairfield County salons. Over time, she turned away from chemicals and gravitated toward natural, organic ingredients. She was trained and certified in natural cosmetic chemistry. The single mother of two young sons went out on her own 13 years ago and now offers skin, hair and nail treatments and other spa services using only natural ingredients derived from plants, essential oils and extracts, out of her small spa, the Ciamei Wellness Center in Trumbull.
Meanwhile, her interest in cancer care only grew. She organized the research and support group, named “Project Marcia” in her mother’s honor. For nearly two years, she has provided nine women with free services and products, using their feedback to perfect formulations designed to help minimize the physically damaging effects of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation. She addresses any concerns or questions the women’s doctors may have, and has found most of them are open-minded regarding treatments that make patients look and feel better.