Watch Cancer Patients Get Outlandish Makeovers

Some makeovers can be patronizing. These are anything but.

The Mimi Foundation, a Belgian cancer nonprofit, asked 20 cancer patients if the group could give them makeovers. Its makeup artists led them into a studio, asked them to close their eyes, and got to work.

A photographer was there to capture the astonishment, and the portraits were later unveiled at a gathering with the patients and their families.

The idea was to offer a moment of silliness in order to "allow them to forget their disease, if only for a second," according to the campaign.

In recent years there's been a backlash against the infantilizing of people living with breast and other cancers through cheesy gifts. It can be hard to know how to cheer up people with serious illnesses, or whether to even try. In her book Bright Sided, the journalist Barbara Ehrenreich criticized the expectation that cancer patients view their diagnoses as as some sort of extra-challenging gift and indulge in all things pink:

The appropriate attitude is upbeat and even eagerly acquisitive. There is, I found, a significant market for all things breast cancer-related. You can dress in pink-beribboned sweatshirts, denim shirts, pajamas, lingerie, aprons, shoelaces and socks; accessorize with pink rhinestone brooches, scarves, caps, earrings and bracelets; and brighten up your home with breast cancer candles, coffee mugs, wind chimes and night-lights. 

Obviously, some patients do find it helpful to keep their thoughts relentlessly sunny. But others are just ready for a break from their grueling treatments, and this experiment seems like a touching, whimsical way to provide that.

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Olga Khazan is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

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