Local woman trains in oncology esthetics to help cancer patients

PITTSBURGH — Patients going through cancer treatments have a unique option to get extra care on their journey. It’s from a woman whose concern for them is way more than skin deep.

“I really need that self care for myself, and not just for my skin, but for mindfulness,” said mom, Megen Harmon.

You can probably relate to that statement, but the reason runs deep for Megen. Two months after giving birth to her son, she had a seizure in her sleep.

“They realize there was a mass in my left frontal lobe of my brain,” said Megen.

Surgery revealed a cancerous brain tumor for the then 29-year-old. That was four years ago. Next month, she’ll start chemotherapy and radiation.

“I’m nervous about the side effects of radiation on my head,” said Megen. “Like hair loss, for example, or burning of my scalp.”

But Lori Murtagh, a local esthetician trained in oncology esthetics, is hoping to help Megen and other cancer patients with their skin care worries. She’s volunteering her time with AHN and its Cancer Institute to offer a virtual class about caring for skin and nails. It’s the first in Pennsylvania and one of only a few nationwide.

“Sometimes if they’re going through radiation treatment they get a burning of the skin like a sunburn and sometimes that gets pretty significant,” said Lori.

She shares her knowledge with patients about how to get rid of dryness, redness, and rashes – side effects of cancer that AHN Volunteer Resource Director Laurin Scanlon says aren’t always talked about in the doctor’s office.

“Finding that gap in care and being able to fill that void with Lori has been terrific,” said Laurin.

“I can help them get through the treatments and also provide that listening ear for them and the emotional support that they need,” said Lori.

Because being that listening ear for a client going through cancer treatments is what spurred Lori to get trained in oncology esthetics.

“I actually feel like it was a calling,” she said.

Now she’s hoping her virtual class next week reaches even more people, like Megen.

“Be courageous and do what you can for yourself,” said Megen.

If you’d like to sign up for the virtual AHN Cancer Institute and Volunteer Services skin and nails class on Wednesday, November 10 from 6-7 PM, log onto Zoom.com/join or dial 1-646-558-8656 and enter Meeting ID 965 0475 0202 with Passcode 492557. No registration is necessary. Questions about the class can be directed to outpatientvolunteer@ahn.org