RENTON, Wash. - When it comes to the fight against cancer, Christina Threlkeld seems like an unlikely warrior. She is not a doctor, nurse or even a researcher – she is an esthetician.

“Happy early Valentine’s Day!” she said before she gifted red roses and helium heart balloons to three cancer patients at Valley Medical Center.

More than two years ago, Threlkeld, already a licensed esthetician for almost 15 years, signed on for oncology training and then rented a room in Valley Medical Center so she could be closer to people who need her.

More than 100 cancer patients have come through Compassionate Skincare’s doors for free. Threlkeld says donations from paying clients allow her to pay it forward.

Threlkeld says she tailors products, skin treatments, and massage to a cancer patient’s treatment stage. Chemotherapy, patients say, can make them lose their hair and can ravage their skin.

“It is a hot mess,” Mary Glasco, a breast cancer patient, said about her skin. “She made me feel so much more beautiful. My skin was under control after I saw her. I get dehydrated easily, and the steroids they pump into you before chemotherapy definitely take a toll.”

Another breast cancer patient and client Jennifer Small says it was difficult to come to terms with her changing appearance.

“Looking in the mirror is really hard when you have cancer. I think if you’re not feeling well, just walking around, at times you can forget about it. But at times you look in the mirror it’s just a constant reminder because it’s not the ‘you’ you’re used to seeing,” Small said.

Threlkeld says she wants to give back, because a relative died of cancer when she was 16.

“I can remember my grandmother coming back from radiation treatment, and my mom and I putting cold cloths on her back because of the burns. And I just remember that moment: It was a pivotal moment for me in my life,” Threlkeld said.

Maggie Brown, who has ovarian cancer, says it is Threlkeld who has been a pivotal part of her emotional journey.

“It’s just a beautiful thing she does for us, because it makes us feel important, to feel accepted and loved. And it helps us to accept ourselves,” Brown said.

She received a cancer-free CAT scan from her oncologist in early February, and credits Threlkeld for helping her heal physically and emotionally.

“That there are reasons to fight, you’re going to win. And she always tells you you’re going to win,” Brown said.

However, Threlkeld says it’s her patients who are the real inspiration.

“They are super heroes. They make me realize I can do anything because look at what they’re going through,” Threlkeld said.

And it seems to be just what the doctor ordered: a gentle touch that happens to be tough on cancer.

For more information on Compassionate Skincare, visit