My name is Emma and I am a Mum of three beautiful children aged 13, 11 and 6. I celebrated my 40th birthday whilst in hospital having chemotherapy earlier this year, after receiving a cancer diagnosis just after Christmas last year.

My family and I had been living in Shanghai, China for four and a half years and a persistent pain in my neck area led me to see my doctor to have it checked out. I was given a chest x-ray which showed a mass on my lung and my doctor advised us to return to Australia immediately for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Three days later we flew into Sydney and I was referred to a specialist.

After one week and many tests, I was given the diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma near my lung and on my pancreas. Initially my husband and I shed a lot of tears together, as the shock of the diagnosis was obviously sudden and unexpected. We told the children next, and then our family members, which was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do. Especially at a time of the year that’s supposed to be filled with joy and festivity.

I quickly decided to move forward with positivity and strength, and one of the ways I tackled this was by attending a Look Good Feel Better workshop. My specialist told me about the workshops straight after he gave me my diagnosis. Being the organised person that I am, I booked myself in straight away so I would be prepared for the months ahead and could talk to some like-minded ladies – and I am so glad that I did!

I particularly wanted to be prepared for when the time came that I would lose my hair. I had no idea what it would be like or how it would happen, or how to tie a scarf, or if I wanted to wear a wig. I also had no idea about how to apply makeup correctly or how to take care of my skin with the changes that were to come. I really needed some advice.

I learnt so much from the workshop. From how to care for my skin and scalp, to how to remove makeup, and how to apply it correctly and simply. I had so much fun trying on different wigs, scarfs and turbans and talking with the other participants about some of their experiences. I walked away feeling confident and beautiful. I made several friends during the workshop and we’ve kept in contact and still support each other, which has been invaluable in my recovery. It’s hard to believe these workshops are absolutely free to cancer patients but I’m so thankful for the generosity of those in the community, like yourself, who donate to the program so that it can continue to run.

Receiving my diagnosis was difficult. We have had to re-settle ourselves back into Australia and our children into new schools. I also have to travel four hours to the hospital to receive my treatment, and then stay in hospital for five days at a time away from my family, which is challenging but necessary in order for me to get better. I’m so thankful that my husband and children are all very caring towards me and help me to do things when I’m not quite feeling well or need to rest. This has been the hardest thing for me to adjust to, as I’ve always been a person that loves helping others, but find it difficult to accept help myself.

Accepting help from Look Good Feel Better, though, is something I’m so glad I did do, and would encourage others to do also. The workshop really prepares you for the road ahead by giving you the tools to keep you feeling confident in yourself, positive and strong – three of the biggest and most important factors needed, I believe, in fighting your cancer.

My family and I have just moved back to a small rural town on the mid north coast of NSW, and we’ll be enjoying our first Christmas on our sustainable farm that we’ve set up on 2 acres. We plan to spend the holidays with our animals, tending to our fruit and vegetables and enjoying a recovery from treatment surrounded by nature. We have just added our first chickens to our farm and the children are enjoying handling them, making their chicken shed clean and comfortable, saving food scraps for them and of course collecting their eggs! We were excited to receive our first bee hive in preparation for Spring time and look forward to observing and learning about bees as well as devouring the delicious honey they will provide us with.

For the past two years I have been studying a Bachelor of Social Work and throughout my journey with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I have had the chance to meet several social workers at different hospitals who have helped my family navigate the highs and lows we’ve experienced. Once my treatment is completed, I look forward to working towards graduation day, hoping that I can use my experiences to help patients in the future and of course will continue spreading the word about Look Good Feel Better so all those who could benefit from the program get the opportunity to.

And I hope that you will do your part too. As a Christmas gift to families like mine, I ask you to please consider making a donation to the Look Good Feel Better program and help spread the word. Your support will ensure that women, men and teens across Australia will be able to face their cancer with confidence in the coming year.

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