“I had been experiencing varied, seemingly unconnected symptoms such as more frequent urination, a sciatic pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and finally extreme bloating. I had been to the doctors for the fist two issues for months, but the bloating took me to a doctor who specialised in women’s health. As soon as she touched my stomach she knew something wasn’t right and sent me for X-rays and then a CT scan. I had a needle phobia so opted not to get the intravenous dye (in retrospect it was really silly of me) so I was sent to hospital to get an intravenous CT scan, blood tests and an ultrasound.

At this point I didn’t know it was anything serious, but I called my partner to help me deal with all the needles. I was kept in the hospital overnight and told in the morning that I had ovarian cancer. I was distraught. I felt like my world was crashing down on me.

In some ways, I was relieved to have an answer for months of horrible pain that had been impacting my life. When I found out I probably couldn’t have children I literally collapsed with the horror. It felt as though all of my plans and hopes for my future were being taken away. It was a really horrible time for me.

I feel like my life is in a suspended state at the moment. My workplace has covered me with insurance, so I am not working, which helps me focus on my treatment and health but also makes me feel detached from my real life. I am weak a few days a week from chemo so I couldn’t be relied on to do my job. I spend a lot of time with my family and all of my relationships with family and friends have strengthened and I really have a great support network.

I try to be in the moment more and have days where I focus on just being positive and happy doing something with friends or family, as the bad days are so bad that it is those good times that sustain me on the journey. I have lost my hair and a lot of weight, and sometimes I don’t feel very confident about my appearance. A lot of my feminine attributes are diminished, like my breast size, hair, losing my ovaries and uterus as well as any natural hormones, so this can be very debilitating to my sense of self as a woman.

I had heard from the nurses at the hospital and through friends of friends who had had cancer that the Look Good Feel Better workshop was a great thing to do and a lot of fun. I thought it seemed like a positive thing that I could do and an excuse to take myself into the city for a nice day and to meet other people like me with cancer. I also hadn’t had any professional make-up advice before so thought this was a great chance to learn some new things.

I liked learning about the types of sun protection as it is a high priority for me right now with my post-chemo skin. I also learnt new eye make-up techniques, which I have since used and think look really good compared to the way I used to do them. The tip around wearing earrings to create volume led to me being more adventurous in wearing some big, bold earrings.

I applied the skills I learnt for my partner’s birthday party and I felt really confident and feminine, which was great – I didn’t feel like an ugly duckling with all my friends dressed up and the physical effects of cancer felt like less of an issue.

I think the volunteers are wonderful, they answer any questions you have and they know what they are talking about, particularly with the specific needs of cancer patients. I learnt a lot of cancer-specific things that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

The Look Good Feel Better workshop will allow you to come away with something you didn’t know before. It is a really positive, uplifting atmosphere and I left feeling really good. It was a welcome distraction from my treatment and it was nice to be around other people in similar situations. There was a lovely sense of community in the room.”

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