“While undergoing my annual pap smear, I called my doctor’s attention to a small lump on my thigh, which I thought was a cyst. She didn’t muck around, and within four days, I had received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, just a week before my 59th birthday.
Career-wise I had been planning a big year; I had developed and produced online courses for dyslexic children and adults in Australia and had just finalized the itinerary and payment for a seminar tour of New Zealand. Instead, I had to postpone the trip to start treatment three weeks after my diagnosis.
My treatment involved six cycles of a fortnightly chemo regime followed by two cycles of fortnightly tablets, just to clear up any stray cancer cells. The chemo started to take its toll after the second cycle where I lost my hair. But the fourth and following cycles were the toughest, especially the immense fatigue where it was difficult to walk far without experiencing serious breathlessness.
I believed that learning about lymphoma and the proposed treatment regime, as well as maintaining a positive, optimistic mindset and outlook, would give my medical treatment the best opportunity to work.
While waiting in the oncology reception, I saw a poster for Look Good Feel Better, so I decided to look into it online. I booked into a session after my first chemo cycle, which was a good thing as I still had my hair and confidence.
I think had I waited until I ‘needed’ to go, I would have not felt as strong when I started losing my hair. I felt that taking a proactive approach would help me get all the information I needed to take control over my own appearance. It was the only thing I could control during my diagnosis.
The most important thing about the workshop for me, was the information about headwear and wigs. I was not aware that you could buy hats that cover the whole head, and by layering the scarves and turbans you can create an individual look that is stylish and doesn’t scream ‘chemo’!
I wear skincare and make-up daily so felt comfortable with my routine and application. What amazed me was how many women don’t wear makeup usually and how patient and supportive the volunteers were, showing compassion while helping and guiding the women to apply the beauty products.
Cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, it’s just a speed hump in the journey of life. Seeing other women of all ages living with cancer and managing their diagnosis with the support of one another and the support from the Look Good Feel Better volunteers made me feel like I was not alone.
After the Look Good Feel Better workshop, I booked in to see a wig consultant to get the ball rolling. Friends had suggested I might not lose my hair and perhaps I shouldn’t jump the gun on purchasing a wig, but I wasn’t going to wait to find out – staying strong means taking control of what you can and trying to keep things normal – so I purchased two!
Always being someone who likes to be informed, no one was surprised that I had booked myself into the workshop, in fact they would have been surprised if I hadn’t! I guess my family and friends noticed how positive I was about the physical changes that were taking place. For example, when my hair started to fall out, I decided to shave it down to a number two and went straight to wearing headwear – very stylishly – even around the house! I was putting effort in because I wanted to stay positive for me and my family, and thankfully I knew how to do it fashionably thanks to the tips I picked up at the workshop!
Since my diagnosis, two of my friends have also been diagnosed and I have recommended that they attend a workshop too.
These days, I am prioritizing time for myself, and exploring my creative side. I have taken up water colour painting and love it! And I have finally had time to explore what was on my to-do list for when I retired (yeah, right!) I had always enjoyed knitting and colouring-in but when my son suggested I try painting, I thought, why not?
Being a self-employed woman who uses public seminars to promote my products and services, I have given myself time off through the cycles. Once treatment has been completed, I will again hit the stage and I’m sure no-one will be any the wiser with the new-look me!”
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