When dealing with a cancer diagnosis, I think the two most important things you can have in your back pocket are knowledge and support. These are the things that have helped me through this ordeal.
My breast cancer diagnosis came as a surprise. I’ve always been fairly active and have never had any major health issues. I regularly went for mammograms because there’s a history of breast cancer in my dad’s family, though – and in October, I got a call to go back in because they’d found something that was suspicious, as they called it. The rest is history.
My treatment started out with chemo, which was, well, horrible. The hardest part was the needles. I got a PICC line and everything that goes along with it – feeling queasy and tired, not being able to sleep or eat, bone pains. It was just problem after problem. The most challenging part was the hair loss, though. It was a big deal for me. Every woman wants to try and look her best. And I’ve always had healthy hair and was quite proud of it. To watch it all fall out was quite upsetting and disturbing. Everyone kept saying, “It’s just hair, it’ll grow back,” but the initial shock was horrible. After I lost my hair, I attended a support group for the first time, at the Hearth Place in Oshawa, Ont. I was skeptical at first, to be honest. But I showed up and at first I didn’t talk, I just listened. And I realized that these women were feeling the exact same way that I was. They’d gone through the same thing. And they became the most amazing support system.
When you’re going through cancer, you need support – from family and friends, but also from people who have been through it too. I can tell my husband how I feel and he sympathizes, but he doesn’t really know what it’s like.
I found out about Look Good Feel Better’s workshops through my support group at the Hearth Place. One woman had attended a workshop and she praised it, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I attended the virtual workshop with my 18-year-old daughter, Sarah. We both loved it and found it so helpful. The support and knowledge were just wonderful. It made a big difference for me. I learned how to take care of my skin and how to apply makeup when your eyelashes and your skin and everything are kind of “chemo-looking.” And then they sent me a beautiful bag of goodies with all kinds of amazing makeup and skincare products, which was such a pick-me-up.
When I applied everything I’d learned about makeup from the workshop along with my new wig, I felt and looked almost normal – almost like myself again. It was funny, one day my husband came home from work and I was sitting at the kitchen table with my wig and makeup on, and he said that I looked like myself, like normal, like nothing had happened. That made me feel so good. Because everything else is so hard.
These workshops are such an important resource for women facing cancer. The whole cancer thing is scary and it does a number on your whole life – it turns you upside down and throws you on the floor, so you need support, and you need people on your side who know what they’re talking about and who can steer you in the right direction and help pick you up when you’re down. Knowledge and support – they’re what I keep turning back to. Groups like Look Good Feel Better and Hearth Place are so important. And I must say – looking good really does make you feel better!