Cancer makeovers: finding some sunshine through the storm
Cancer is a grossly unfair invasion of health and life. Almost all cancer treatments along with the effects of the cancer, take a toll on how you feel as well as on your appearance. While it may seem that vanity should take a back seat when you’re fighting for your life, cancer makeover options can be some sunshine to help weather the storm. It’s not about vanity per se, but giving cancer patients control back over a part of their lives and confidence to face the world and continue the battle with gusto.
Find out more about cancer makeovers, a welcome respite from treatment for many cancer patients.
Note: this article focuses on makeovers related to hair loss and skin care. We believe post-mastectomy aesthetic options including external breast prosthesis and breast reconstruction surgeries, deserve a dedicated article and we’ll follow up with one in the coming months.
What is a cancer makeover?
The goal of a cancer makeover is to help cancer patients manage appearance related side effects that are mostly the result of cancer treatments. Why? To give them back a sense of empowerment over something they can take back control of, as well as imparting confidence to go out in public without feeling like they’re under a spotlight because of their appearance.
The side effects of cancer treatments can have negative outcomes for hair quality, volume or loss and skin complexion. For some cancer patients, they may also need to deal with concealing an ostomy bag or colostomy bag. Exploring and finding practical ways to conceal the negatives when it comes to appearance, can make the difference between feeling like you’re constantly in the spotlight, to being able to blend in and go about your day to day when you’re feeling well, without glances of wonder or pity, or questions from strangers about your health.
Cancer makeovers can include all, or some of the following:
- Relaxation massages or facials
- Advice on solutions for hair loss including:
- Workshops on how to apply eyebrow makeup and eyelashes
- Advice, access to and fittings of wigs
- Advice on head scarves and how to style them
- Access to head scarves and wigs to take home and try out.
- Advice, workshops and application of skin care and makeup.
- Advice on how to dress to conceal an ostomy or colostomy bag.
- Take home cosmetics and products donated by cosmetic companies.
“It was so empowering and uplifting and the support from the host, cosmetologist and aesthetician, as well as the other ladies attending the program was amazing.” – a publicly available social media post by a participant in a cancer makeover program.
What are the benefits of cancer makeover programs?
Here are just some of the benefits that cancer patients have shared as a result of attending a cancer makeover session or program:
- Empowerment: having practical solutions can not only make you feel good about your physical appearance but you’re back in control of this part of your life.
- Confidence to face the world: by learning how to conceal some of the changes in appearance, you can blend in rather than stand out. You may not want to be constantly reminded about your health by observing the reactions of others when they notice your hair loss for example.
- Positivity: rather than feeling like your schedule is all about your treatment, a cancer makeover session is one way of dealing with cancer positively.
- Introducing moments of fun: a couple of girlfriends of mine that have dealt with hair loss, enjoyed the opportunity to experiment with some wigs in styles they would never have risked going permanent with! And then finally settling for styles they were at peace with.
- Connections and friendships: participating in group workshops connects you with other people facing similar cancer situations. From this, friendships can grow, or at least opportunities to feel that you’re having conversations with people that can truly empathise.
- Lifting morale: cancer treatments can feel unrelenting and all consuming. Then, facing a set back in recovery can be hard to pull up positively from. A morale boosting makeover session, can be a bit of sunshine through the storm clouds to help lift your spirit, and in turn to help get you through treatments.
- An escape: a cancer makeover session focused on your appearance, rather than on treatment - away from a clinical environment can feel like a moment of respite, an opportunity for some pampering.
Cancer makeover or retreat organisations in Australia and available in Victoria
Breast Cancer Network Australia: My Care Kit includes a specially designed Berlei bra and soft forms via a partnership between BCNA and Berlei.
Cancer Council Victoria Wig Service: a free, private and personalised wig fitting service.
The Gawler Cancer Foundation Cancer Retreats: expert retreat facilitators helping cancer patients find a better quality of life following diagnosis. This is more of an ‘internal’ makeover than appearance related – equally valuable. The retreats are self-funded but additional bursary funding may be available.
Think Pink Foundation | The Living Centre: offers a comprehensive range of services to breast cancer patients from any treatment centre and at any stage of their journey.
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