Cancer takes a devastating toll on a person, and efforts to help build someone up take many forms.

Thursday, Minnesota State College Southeast’s Cosmetology Academy collaborated with “Hello, Gorgeous!” to remind Ginnee Siegel, a breast cancer survivor, how beautiful she is.

“I’m overwhelmed; I had no idea this was going to happen,” Siegel said. “It’s like therapy, coming here.”

“Hello Gorgeous!” is an organization that offers complimentary makeovers to women battling any type of cancer. Siegel was surprised with a red carpet welcome, when she was greeted by a group of beauty specialists who were ready to pamper her.

“It feels amazing, the look on her face when she walked in was priceless,” said Tina Daffinson, a cosmetology student at Southeast. “It takes a lot of positive thinking to try and stay strong, be positive and surround yourself with positive people.”

Siegal had taught in Chicago for 40 years, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in April.

Jody Heim, a salon affiliate, explained what Ginnee was in store for Thursday afternoon, as they prepared beforehand to help serve: A facial, manicure, pedicure, hair styling and color — even a complimentary wig, or styling the wig.

Larger organizations like L’oreal, Redken, Pureology and Mary Kay donated their products to help make a beauty bag kit, which Siegel will take with her. Maurices, a Minnesota-based clothing company, also came in to dress her from head to toe with an outfit she got to keep.

The effects are more than skin-deep, with a positive attitude being a crucial component of wellbeing.

“I totally appreciate that all these people did this for me, because I never even thought of this.” Siegel said.

“It’s good support for what you’re going through when you have cancer, and all the other things that go with it, so it’s really helpful. There’s really not much you can do but support people and encourage them to keep going. That absolutely means everything.”

Siegel, still adjusting to the shock of the unexpected generosity, had advice for other women battling breast cancer:

“Stay positive and live each day at a time,” she said. “Love yourself.”

It was advice that for Alexis Bishop, a cosmetology student whose contribution to the surprise event, hit close to home.

“It really touches my heart,” Bishop said. “It’s a special thing to me because my mom just got diagnosed with breast cancer about two years ago, and we’re finally just finishing her surgeries. We all have to be aware of these kinds of things and be on top of this so we can fight through this.”

“We all just have to work together. You’re beautiful, no matter what. Just always remember that.”

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