I am a 37-year-old mum of two gorgeous boys – Morgan (10) and Tyler (6), and my husband Danny and I have called the Northern Territory home for 11 years now. I have been an Occupational Therapist for 15 years and specialise in geriatric care, management and enablement which is a passion of mine. I love spending time in our garden, spending time with friends, walks with our dog around town and along the beach, and anything crafty – especially crocheting. All our extended family live in Victoria and as such, we are privileged to have ever-present support and love through our ‘Darwin family’ – friends and their children, and colleagues that have become our close family. I am fondly dubbed “Crazy Aunt Flo” by my adopted Darwin family, and I pride myself in being able to always look on the light side of life, with a smile on my face and a laugh ready to sprout.
I had found out I was pregnant with our third child in October 2019 and due to feeling run-down and a bit crook, my lymph nodes on my neck became enlarged, which was a usual thing for me when I was getting sick. Over the following weeks, however, as I started feeling better the lymph node on the left side of my neck did not go back down, and instead continued to rapidly grow. I was experiencing the standard symptoms of the early stages of pregnancy – nausea, weight-loss, loss of appetite, hot sweats/flushes, and fatigue – but later found out these are the same symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Within five weeks from the day I presented to my wonderful GP, and after a fine needle biopsy, core biopsy, three hour MRI, bone marrow biopsy and countless blood tests, I received my diagnosis.
My initial reaction was a mixture of grief and shock but also relief that we finally knew what it was, and we could move on to treating it. Heartbreakingly though, because of the treatment for this aggressive cancer we lost our little boy at 14-weeks’ gestation in November 2019.
Following my treatment, I was recovering at home and was regularly seeing ads for Look Good Feel Better on TV. I had also seen a poster for the workshops at my treatment centre, however the workshop dates initially seemed to fall right in the middle of treatment when I was too exhausted to care, or it was ‘too far off’ to plan for. I have always had a secure knowledge of beauty care and make-up prior to my diagnosis and had sewn up some head caps and watched videos on how to wrap head-scarfs myself when I commenced treatment, so I felt that since I had completed my treatment and my hair was growing back, I didn’t ‘deserve’ to take part in a workshop. The feeling of not being a ‘cancer patient’ anymore was weird, as my ‘active’ part of treatment was complete.
I had attempted to put on my usual makeup during my treatment at Christmas, however it felt too heavy and my skin felt clogged and itchy. Also, the mere thought of applying anything more to my face than my standard moisturiser was utterly exhausting! I eventually realised that I deserved to treat myself to an opportunity to care for myself and the new me in my ‘new normal’ post cancer treatment, and thought that even if I only learned one thing from participating in a workshop, that would be enough. I was also wanting to connect with women who have been through a similar experience. I realised that my whole person – including my skin-care needs – had changed since my cancer diagnosis, and I needed support and information from those in the know.
I registered for a workshop, but unfortunately because of the impact of COVID-19, it had to be cancelled. That wasn’t going to stop me getting the Look Good Feel Better experience though, and I was thrilled when I learned from the Look Good Feel Better team that Virtual Workshops were available to me instead.
After my initial reaction, I quickly became reluctant to register for a Virtual Workshop. It was a little off-putting, as I felt I would enjoy being able to chat with the other participants and volunteers more in person and I also didn’t think my current beauty products would be suitable to enable me to participate. But a free Home-Delivered Confidence Kit was then sent to me and receiving special makeup was exciting and made the thought of a Virtual Workshop even more enticing. The booklet and DVD provided in the Kit were amazing – beautifully set-out and simple yet very informative. And the products – WOW!! I was truly amazed and emotional at the high-quality and range of products included. Opening the box felt like Christmas and I felt confident that with just the products provided, I could have a complete skincare and make-up regime. I was so excited I skipped off to try them all out and they truly made me feel special and beautiful again. When I proudly showed my box of goodies off to friends and family, the resounding response was “you deserve it”. I was truly thankful.
I finally registered for a Virtual Workshop and I’m glad I did. I learnt how to respect and care for my skin and its unique needs following my cancer treatment. Thanks to the simple makeup tips and tricks, the thought of applying makeup was no longer daunting. The valuable things I learnt included how to apply eye-makeup that is simple yet impressive, how to manage dark circles under the eyes, the importance of sunscreen and when to apply it to get the most out of its benefits, and how to manage and draw on eyebrows. The demonstration was amazing and super easy to follow and having the Home-Delivered Confidence Kit made the Virtual Workshop seamless and stress-free. There was no major worry about having to get all the different products ready for the workshop and it made it possible to just sit and relax, and absorb the valuable information being provided.
Participating in the workshop made me feel valued and important – as a member of the community, not just amongst my wonderful friends and family. It made me feel that I was not alone in my experiences and feelings post or during cancer treatment. And it reminded me that there are things to get excited about – even just putting on lipstick and feeling confident that we can rock and embrace our new looks!
I noticed a difference in myself after the workshop and my boys did too. I felt that I wasn’t moping around the house as much with no feeling of purpose whilst I was in the ‘recovery mode’ period. I felt a little spring in my step and I was motivated again to take pride in my appearance – even if just for myself – as it was getting depressing catching glimpses of my drawn-out look in any reflective surface. I took to putting on lippy as I was heading off to bed as I felt like I was going to bed happy! I didn’t mind as much when people saw me out in the community, and my smile was that little bit bigger knowing that I looked and felt accomplished with my ability to kick cancer! My boys seemed happier too and were smiling and more jovial, as I was happier and more at ease.
My life has changed on so many levels since my diagnosis. My relationship with my husband has become stronger than I ever thought possible and we are definitely a marvelous “dynamic duo”. I treasure every moment with by beautiful boys, I value the love and support from friends, our ‘adopted family’ and that of my wonderful family. And the love and support from my mum – both to me and my boys whilst I was undergoing treatment – has strengthened the bond between a mother a daughter to another level.
I feel empowered by my tenacity, internal strength and ability to ‘not stress the small stuff’ and embrace my ‘get on with it’ attitude. I love that my ability to smile throughout this chapter and laugh at all things challenging and positive has enabled me to come out on the other side stronger and more confident in my awesome self.
I would HIGHLY recommend Look Good Feel Better to others going through cancer treatment – no matter what cancer you have been diagnosed with or what treatment you have received. There are so many benefits and gems of information and support that can be obtained through these workshops, helping you to feel human and beautiful again and not just like a pin cushion or patient.
And I would encourage you to ‘Celebrate Confidence’ with Look Good Feel Better in this, their 30th year in Australia, by sending them an anniversary gift in acknowledgement of all they give to those undergoing cancer treatment. Your anniversary gift, no matter how big or small, will be just one more reason for all of us to celebrate.