Written with understanding, compassion and professional expertise, Beauty Pearls for Chemo Girls , a new book co-authored by South Salem resident Debbie Kiederer Cucullo and breast cancer survivor Marybeth Maida, is the first and only comprehensive beauty guide for women facing cancer treatment. Ms. Kiederer Cucullo sat down with The Ledger last week to talk about the inspiration for the book and why she and her journalist friend decided to write it. Filling a need “I was in the beauty industry for 23 years, serving as an executive for Clinique from 1985 to 1998,” Ms. Kiederer Cucullo said. “I met Marybeth in 1995 and hired her to work for Clinique. We became friends and stayed in touch after she left. She came down with breast cancer in 1999 and, after she completed her therapy, asked me to meet her to discuss an idea for a project.” Ms. Kiederer Cucullo said the project was a book. “Marybeth had vowed if she survived she would write a book especially for cancer patients, giving women much-needed advice on hair, skin care, makeup, fashion, nutrition, body care, and spirituality,” she said. “We agreed to go ahead and wanted to make sure it was not just another ‘survivor’ book, but something that filled a real, practical need, based on advice from beauty industry and other experts.”
Ms. Kiederer Cucullo said she had an extra interest in the book because of a cousin and a friend diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer. The pair got going on the project, with Ms. Kiederer Cucullo using her wealth of contacts in the beauty industry to garner expert advice. “There was nothing else like our book out there,” Ms. Kiederer Cucullo said. “Patients might find bits and pieces of information, but there was not one single source of professional beauty advice and guidance,” she said. “Each year, 650,000 women undergo chemotherapy in the United States. Once treatment begins, every one of them will face at least some appearance altering side effects.” Practical advice Ms. Kiederer Cucullo said hair loss is the number one issue for female chemotherapy patients.
“For example, Marybeth is a beautiful ‘black Irish’ woman with dark hair and blue eyes. She told me she was totally devastated to find her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows lying on the pillow every morning. She said she looked, and felt, awful.” To answer the need for information about what to do when you lose all your hair, the second chapter of the book, entitled The Mane Event, provides a wealth of information on everything from choosing a wig, hats, scarves., scalp care, and transitioning back from baldness. Other chapters address skin care, makeup, choosing stylish and comfortable clothing; dealing with the physical side effects of chemotherapy, good nutrition, intimacy issues, and a final chapter on faith and spirituality that covers things like sustaining positive energy and overcoming fear. Throughout, the book features tips from top stylists and designers like Oribe and Betsey Johnson, dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad, and other specialists, many with well-known clients in the entertainment industry.
“The book also includes resource lists and real-life stories from brave, beautiful women who’ve ‘been there’,” Ms. Kiederer Cucullo said. “Our goal is to help women face the mirror and the world with courage and confidence.” Ms. Kiederer Cucullo says the book does not mention any company or brand names, but instead sticks to categories. “We didn’t want this to be an industry commercial,” she said. “The experts we consulted were all very pleased to contribute and took a strong personal interest in the project.”
Positive response Ms. Kiederer Cucullo said that response to the book has been extremely positive. “It was published by Kensington Publishing/Citadel Press and has been available since Sept. 1 at bookstores,” she said. “We also have an interactive Web site, www.beautypearlsforchemogirls.com., where women can get additional information from experts and, if they choose, share their experiences.” Visitors to the site may also view the book by chapter and download just the sections that interest them. Now that the book is completed, Ms. Kiederer Cucullo is focusing on the strategic marketing and Web-development firm, ChalkDust Consulting, she founded after leaving Clinique. Ms. Kiederer Cucullo has lived in the Twin Lakes section of South Salem for the past 12 years. A native of Mount Vernon, she and her husband, Bob Cucullo, have three daughters, 17-year old Mika, 16-year-old Natasha, and 11-year-old Katarina.
All attend John Jay schools. “I have always been entrepreneurial in spirit and am glad I made the decision to found my own company so that I could spend more time with my husband and children,” she said. “Although some of my friends and colleagues disagreed, it was the right choice for me and I am very happy with it.”