There aren’t many ways to prepare for cancer, but with enough research and appointments, you can eventually wrap your head around how to manage your diagnosis. Regaining your confidence, however, is a different journey. Several months into treatment of my second cancer diagnosis, my husband and I decided to take our nine-year-old grandson camping. After a mastectomy and chemo, I welcomed the chance to connect with nature and spend time with family. Except, this trip was different.
As my grandson and husband were getting ready to bike over to the park and meet his new camping friend, I decided to join them and make it a family trip. Before I was able to tie my shoelaces, my grandson asked me not to come because he was embarrassed and worried about what the other kids would say. At the time, my hair had fallen out from treatment, and I looked different from the other women at the campsite. I understood why he felt that way. I am normally a confident person—but hearing those words from someone I love really shook me.
My husband explained to him that I would have my hat on and that other kids wouldn’t make fun of him. At that moment, the last thing I wanted to be was the ‘cancer person’, to have my grandson concerned to be seen with me, or to have a sea of curious on-lookers stare at me. It was already an adjustment to manage my appearance after my mastectomy and hair loss, with many mornings in front of the bathroom mirror asking myself, “who is that?”
Whether we like to admit it or not, our appearance affects how we feel about ourselves. And the ability to look like me again was a big reason why I signed up for a Look Good Feel Better workshop. After finding out about the program, I went online looking for resources that could help me. I started with reading blog posts and stories from other women and began to feel less alone—I felt seen. I thought, “should I do this? Should I go to the workshop?” Reading other people’s experiences really pushed me to be vulnerable and join the online workshop. I am glad I did because I learned so much! I wouldn’t call myself a makeup person, so I was happy to be able to draw on my sparse eyebrows. It has been so helpful to feel ‘ready’ to go back out in public again.
Considering that the workshop was online, and I was pretty much ‘zoomed out’ at that point, the talented volunteers did an amazing job of making the entire experience feel personal and special. It felt like a moment to forget about my worries—I could just enjoy pampering myself and share a laugh with other women like me. No fear of ‘what will they think of my bald head?’ because I was not the ‘cancer person’; I was me.
Unless you have been diagnosed with cancer, you won’t be able to truly understand how empowering the Look Good Feel Better workshops are. Cancer can be an alienating experience. So, seeing other women at different stages of their diagnosis, learning the same necessary tips, and sharing a laugh reminded me that I am not alone in this journey.