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Documentary Spotlights Beauty Parlor Catering to Cancer Patients

Image courtesy of HBO(NEW YORK) -- Joining the Oscar-nominated stars on the red carpet this Sunday will be two Long Island, N.Y., beauty salon owners, Cynthia Sansone and Rachel DeMolfetto.

Sansone and DeMolfetto, who are sisters, are the subject of the Oscar-nominated short documentary Mondays At Racine.  The film follows the cancer patients who come to the sisters’ beauty parlor once a month for a day of free beauty treatments.

The sisters came up with the idea more than 10 years ago as a way to honor their mother, who passed away from breast cancer in the 1980s.

Sansone says that her mother initially felt like a pariah and an “alien” after her hair fell out from her cancer treatments.

“We did not have the tools to know how to help her.  I remember vividly my father walking her into the house,” she says.  “The grimace on her face.”

Sansone says the idea behind the free day of beauty is to provide a support system for the cancer patients, most of whom are women, as they deal with a life-threatening illness.

“We got the script down on what we need to say to soothe and heal,” she says.  “No one wants to [hear], ‘You look good.’  People want to hear, ‘What can I do?’”

The film’s director, Cynthia Wade, says the one common and most surprising response among the cancer patients she interviewed was that they were terrified of losing their hair.  One patient even felt like she was being “erased” as a result of her cancer treatment.

“Every single woman I spoke to said it was much easier to lose their breast than their hair,” says Wade.

Sansone hopes that after the Oscars, more cancer patients feel comfortable coming to the salon for a day of beauty and support.

“It’s grown into one of the most wonderful things to be a part of,” she says.  “To anybody if you are diagnosed, do not feel alone.  Come and talk, come be with us.”

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ABC News Radio