“I have had a run with cancer for 12 years now. I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction. Then I had a malignant thyroglossal cyst that was treated with surgery and this year, at the age of 50, I have had a relapse of the Hodgkin’s.

The diagnosis came after my haematologist ordered a series of tests for severe abdominal pain. My initial reaction was along the lines of ‘well that’s a shame, but lets just get on with sorting this one out.’

As a senior lecturer in midwifery, I was worried about how my work-life and colleagues would cope without me being around for a while whilst I had treatment. And I was particularly sad for Michael, my husband, and Rosie and Oliver, my kids who yet again had to see me through another round of cancer.

Since my diagnosis I have been very aware of my body’s needs and what I feel comfortable eating, drinking and doing. While I’m in treatment, I’m not working, which is very strange, as that was always a really big part of my life.

Michael and I live in the Illawarra, so when we are not working in Sydney, we like to walk, garden and support live music and the arts in our community. We have a number of chickens and a rather large property to look after, so our weekend home-life is precious to us.

Friends and family have been massively supportive; I have a freezer full of lovely donated food, and many I can call on to help or whinge to whenever I want. I feel so grateful to them and also grateful to be living in a developed country where I have access to first class healthcare.

I attended the Look Good Feel Better workshop to do just that – look good and feel better! I had been scared to put on make-up, especially mascara as I felt it would hasten the loss of my eyelashes but realized at the workshop that I felt better after applying some – and that I was imagining that they would fall out sooner!

I also wanted to meet other women in a similar situation to me. A friend of mine who had also gone through cancer and had been to one of the workshops told me it was a fun thing to do – and it certainly was.

I learnt little things about applying make-up and preparing the face. Things like the importance of sunscreen, eye-cream and the best way to match your foundation and powder to your skin. I also picked up some great ways to tie scarves and all about the latest wig technology!

The best thing about the workshop was meeting other women going through similar experiences. Seeing that some of them had also lost their hair and were transformed by the wonderful make-up artists and headwear experts was inspiring.

When I tried on a wig with a full face of make-up and looked in the mirror, I felt like it was me looking back; not the pale face with a badly tied scarf I’ve been looking at for the past few months. It made me feel better, just as the workshop promised!

I came home with colour on my cheeks and eye make-up so I looked less tired and sad! I have been making more of an effort with my appearance since the workshop, so I imagine my family and friends might have noticed that. But it’s how I feel that matters, and I feel good putting on a bit of eye make-up now!

I would definitely recommend a Look Good Feel Better workshop to other women going through treatment. It was a lovely sized group, with very supportive and experienced volunteers. It was lovely to focus on your hair and make-up (and to be given a bag of cosmetics!) which is something that can fall by the wayside when you are so focused on the medical side of treatment.”

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