Photo courtesy of GK! Thanks to PY for the special background.
In October, my sister Michele was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was particularly difficult for my family, as my mother was fighting her own battle with the disease. In the first few months, while my sister was adjusting to her busy appointment schedule, her chemo side effects and just the need to be available to be with our mother on days that she was feeling up to it, I didn’t want to broach going to a workshop with her. She was handling everything like a champ, but if you knew how many appointments that she had you would be overwhelmed.
After some time passed, and we were clear on what side effects she would have from her treatment, I brought it up. I thought it would be nice for us to go together and for my sister to have something to look forward to. Just to be candid, Michele LOVES makeup. She’s been wearing it since her teens and has a good idea of what looks good on her and she certainly isn’t afraid of colour. Weirdly, no matter what she thinks, I’m always shocked at how good she looks, even without makeup. This was surprising to me – I wasn’t sure what to expect. She has been unbelievably accepting of losing her hair, and has a GREAT wig. She still has some of her eyebrows too. Anyway – she agreed to go to the workshop, so being Type A, I signed her up online and made sure that I could attend. Each person attending can bring one guest – they won’t receive the goodies, but they are able to be there for moral support.
We went to Princess Margaret Lodge on February 27. It’s set up in a conference room, and each attendee going through chemo or other cancer related treatment walks out with a bag full of cosmetics and skin care. It’s laid out for the women since they use the products during the workshop. It was a pretty full class, and the volunteers take you through a presentation about Look Good Feel Better, and some of the challenges that patients have in dealing with the appearance based side effects of the disease. Some of the patients were happy to be there and get tips on how to “Look Good”. One person actually wasn’t emotionally ready for the workshop and left.
After they did the initial presentation, they wanted someone from the group to volunteer to be the makeup model. No one volunteered so I said, in my loudest voice, “Michele?” My sister was pretty excited to model, so she happily took her place at the front of the class, and even though I couldn’t be the centre of attention, I got to live vicariously through her. She was already wearing makeup, so after taking a chisel, oops makeup wipe, she was ready to be made pretty all over again, while the rest of the class followed the step by step instructions from the makeup artist. To finish things off, my sister tried on a whole bunch of wigs – some of them looked really cute on her, one made her look a little like Morticia Addams, but hey, you don’t get to pick everything. The women got to shout out which ones they wanted her to try.
I would highly recommend Look Good Feel Better to any woman who is going through cancer treatment. You may think that you already know a lot about how to apply make up and skincare, but things change when you are going through treatment. You have to learn tips for complexions that may be drier and more sallow, how to pencil in eyebrows and how to fake the look of having lashes. It’s a really nice evening or daytime workshop and gives you the chance to think about yourself. I think my sister was more excited by the free stuff, but then again, she’s always loved a freebie – trust me it’s part of her charm. Seriously though, cancer takes so much from patients, a little pick me up and a way to feel better about yourself is well worth the time. The volunteers are knowledgeable, kind and compassionate and the cosmetic companies should be commended for the donations to the program.
One recommendation that I would make to any woman going through a treatment where you will lose your hair – make getting a wig a priority. Do this before your treatment, that way you are prepared when the time comes and you are feeling well enough to try them on. You have to make an appointment with a wig shop – you can’t just walk in and try them on. If you have benefits, many companies cover off between $300-$500 as long as you have a doctor’s note. We also found out that you shouldn’t shave your head – it can lead to nicks that can get infected – a big nono for someone whose immune system is going to be compromised. Michele bought her wig in advance, and our cousin Gail went with her. She sent me a photo and it was perfect! They both played a joke on me telling me that Michele wasn’t going to buy the wig that day. Hardy-har har. They were just teasing to see what kind of reaction they would get out of me. Sigh. I think that my sister was glad to get the wig, and it is one less thing to worry about when there is so much going on already.
For more information or to register for a workshop go to https://lgfb.ca/en/
If you’ve attended the workshop, and have feedback, I’d love to hear about it!