Feeling beautiful when fighting cancer

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as much of the focus is placed on raising money and awareness to one day eradicate the word cancer from our vocabulary, there is often another factor that courageous women don’t hear enough about: feeling beautiful even when facing challenges and obstacles through chemotherapy, treatments and life after breast cancer.

Getting a cancer diagnosis is disheartening enough, but going through the physical changes adds an entirely new element to beating breast or any other cancer. Hair loss, nausea or weight loss may occur. Physical changes vary according to the individual and can have lasting impact on self-esteem and confidence well beyond cancer treatment and survival.

When we’re dealing with illness, often one of the last things on our minds is maintaining an appearance, but many health experts suggest that caring for personal appearance can drastically boost spirits and, in turn, provide added strength during a difficult time. Feeling beautiful also helps a woman transition her emotional state from being a patient to being an individual, full of life and hope for the future.

To help women feel more beautiful and empowered during cancer treatments and beyond, makeup artists and beauty experts are putting more effort into creating products designed specifically for women going through physical changes as a result of chemotherapy. Makeup artist Laura Geller overheard a woman commenting on the changes her body was going through during chemotherapy. While the woman was saddened over her hair loss, she was even more upset by the loss of her eyebrows. None of the available products helped her restore the natural look of brows. This dilemma was causing her additional stress on top of the other physical and mental challenges related to her breast cancer.

As a result of the conversation, Geller created the Brow Marker for all women, especially those who have lost eyebrows through chemotherapy. Geller says, “Wearing makeup makes you feel empowered and allows others to know you care about yourself. For many women, especially those who are cancer survivors, looking good on the outside can dramatically change how you feel on the inside.”

At first it might feel as if it takes every ounce of strength to go about a normal routine, but over time it helps maintain a sense of normalcy during a chaotic time in life. Here are some tips the American Cancer Society offers for women in treatment and for survivors.

Try to maintain regular grooming habits
Each day, attempt to go about your normal routine, whether that’s putting on makeup, doing your hair or even pampering yourself. If you’re used to getting a monthly facial, massage or weekly manicure and pedicure, don’t stop, but first make sure your doctor approves these additional treatments to reduce side effects. No matter what it is, try to do something that makes you feel good, even if it’s as simple as putting on your favorite lipstick.

Don’t put off wig shopping
Through chemotherapy, hair loss, although devastating, is common. Before you start your treatments, visit a wig shop and pick out some options. Selecting your wigs early gives you the ability to find styles that match your hair texture and color, helping you seamlessly transition through the various stages of hair loss without feeling so self-conscious. The thought of wearing wigs could be stressful for some, but in today’s world, wigs are very natural looking and beautiful; it’s often very difficult to notice a difference!

Boost your personal style
If you prefer not to wear a wig, scarves and turbans are stylish options. These head dressings are chic and add instant glamour to any look, day or night. Choose a cotton fabric to stay cool throughout the day or look for luxurious silk turbans and scarves for a fashionable feel.

Do your best to exercise
Exercise is good for the mind, body and soul. Even if you can only do a little bit each day, nourishing the body with gentle exercise does wonders to boost confidence and strength. Take it as slow as you need or ask your doctor for advice if you want to continue with gentle routines such as yoga.

Look Good Feel Better is a program sponsored by the Personal Care Products Council in cooperation with the American Cancer Society and the Professional Beauty Association, It provides workshops with skin care and makeup tips and ideas for dealing with hair loss. Licensed beauty professionals conduct the workshops.Each woman who participates receives a kit of products donated by the beauty industry.

Dealing with cancer is never easy, and there are many resources available to help. Specialty shops for wigs and turbans often also provide skin and hair care products that help soothe skin irritation caused by treatments. Ask your doctor, oncology nurse, massage therapist and your hair stylist which local resources they recommend to help women fighting cancer find beauty and fashion products. HLM

Sources: cancer.org, huffingtonpost.com, lookgoodfeelbetter.org and tlcdirect.org.