“Please support Look Good Feel Better this tax time. Self-image comes up again and again when you are on such a long course of treatment for cancer and to have a workshop with women sharing those skills and knowledge is especially useful. Every dollar you donate will have double the impact thanks to Nude by Nature* who have pledged to dollar match every gift. Please give what you can to ensure more patients like me can benefit from attending a Look Good Feel Better workshop.

I never expected to need a service like Look Good Feel Better, but after I gave birth to my second child, Saskia, I was quite thin, had a bit of trouble with milk supply and experienced incredible night sweats. Everyone wrote it off as weird hormonal reactions to the pregnancy.

When Saskia was about eight weeks old, I got a cold, and then a cough that eventually became wheezy. The doctor sent me for a chest x-ray, thinking I might have pneumonia. The x-ray showed a large shadow on my lungs, which the respiratory physician said looked like pneumonia, so he treated it as such, to no effect. I followed this up with a CT scan and just like that, I was handed a lymphoma diagnosis.

I was in a state of shock for a long time. I didn’t call it cancer, but for ages, insisted on lymphoma. It took some time to accept that what I had was actually cancer. I didn’t know much about the lymphatic system at all. And because I really didn’t want to know too much until a biopsy confirmed whether it was Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, I kept myself in the dark for weeks.

Unfortunately, this meant that when the diagnosis of Hodgkin Lymphoma was finally made, I was still trying to process it all. It was established that the tumour was very large. In fact, it was “the size of a small cantaloupe” according to the surgeon, and the treatment had to begin urgently. It was a traumatic and difficult time for the entire family.

One of the nurses recommended that I attend a Look Good Feel Better workshop as a much-needed morale boost. I was interested in the program because I wanted to know more about the way women presented themselves when they are visibly unwell.

I had started to experience changes to my skin like puffiness and redness, and after the first round of chemo my hair really lost any bounce or sheen that was once there and became a lank, greasy pelt with bald patches.

I was going out in a headscarf with Koen, my three-year old, and Saskia in a pram. People gave me “kind eyes” – fleeting, slightly pitying looks, when I was out and about with the kids. There was no way I was pretending that I was normal. I would never feel normal again.

At the Look Good Feel Better workshop, I learned quite a bit about skincare and make-up which was useful, and about wigs and other alternatives. Going through the make-up routine reminded me about the importance of taking care of how I presented myself. It made me value myself even more and realise that just because I am sick, it doesn’t mean I need to hide myself.

My family did notice a change in me after the workshop. I started experimenting and collecting colourful headscarves. Friends would even send them to me as gifts! I used the #chemochic hashtag to show off my scarves on social media and it became a way to keep family and friends updated on the progress of my treatment.

Life is completely different now. I spend a lot of time receiving treatment or going to other appointments and I am now really familiar with the public health system. My husband, has gone for months at a time as the main carer for our kids, Koen and Saskia, as well as working full-time. It has made me value my time with the kids and my husband more. We have become dependent on our family and friends, and we are fortunate that we have a supportive community around us.

Look Good Feel Better has played an important part in reminding me to take pride in my appearance, despite the ongoing effects of cancer treatment. It’s not just about perking up a wan complexion with some blusher – it has had a real impact on me from the outside, in. I make an effort not just for me, but also to help my family and friends cope too.

You can play a part in restoring the confidence of cancer patients and ensuring they feel empowered.

Please support the work of Look Good Feel Better by making a tax deductible donation before 30 June.”

Emma

*The maximum total matching contribution by Nude by Nature for the promotion period is AUD $20,000.