For Monica and Danielle, a chance meeting at a Look Good Feel Better workshop five years ago resulted in a special connection that neither could have anticipated.

Towards the end of 2016, Monica underwent a mammogram and series of biopsies for a growth that had been present under her armpit for nine months. As a fit, healthy marathon runner and yoga devotee, the moment she entered the room to receive her results and saw a nurse standing ready with a tissue box was an unnerving one. “It was a complete shock that what I had under my arm pit was cancerous. I simply couldn’t believe it. I didn’t exhibit any of the risk factors.”

Similarly, at the beginning of 2017 a mammogram and ultrasound confirmed a breast cancer diagnosis for Danielle. “I was shocked. Nobody in my family had ever had breast cancer and I just thought that I had a lump. I had a history of breast cysts which I would routinely have drained, and I thought that this lump was the same.”

Both women registered for a Look Good Feel Better workshop in March 2017, hopeful to connect with others in a similar situation and to learn some tips and tricks, particularly around managing hair loss. They got what they were hoping for, and so much more.

Monica said, “Friends you make during your cancer journey are very special friends and Danielle and I finding each other at the Look Good Feel Better workshop offered support and understanding. The program is designed to build confidence and empower those undergoing cancer treatment, and it also allows you to have a bit of fun and forget about your next medical appointment.

“Cancer changed us both and it has been special to have a friend like Danielle who completely understood what I was going through, and who understands that once you finish treatment you are never the same. Neither of us went back to being the same person we were before. Danielle, a qualified registered nurse, went on to study specialist Breast Cancer nursing, and I left my full-time management job to become a yoga teacher, specialising in Oncology yoga - Yoga4Cancer. Both of us have found ways to support others being diagnosed with cancer.”

Danielle added, “Five years later, we’re thankful to have benefited from participating in the program with the outcome of a very special friendship. I can't explain how good it felt to meet someone exactly the same age as me, with kids and a husband all around the same age. We had identical portacath sites, we both shared an Oncologist and we both had long hair and then went bald together.

For the first year or so Monica and I met up each week for coffee or lunch and a chat, but we could also not talk and feel comfortable in the silence. We did not have to explain anything to each other, we just knew how it felt to be diagnosed with a life- threatening disease at 49 years of age. Having someone who knew how you were feeling and how your family was feeling - nobody but Monica could understand these things at the time, and even now.

Our friendship is treasured and held deep in my heart. I am so grateful to have Monica in my life and I don't think that I would have made it without her. Thank goodness we met at a Look Good Feel Better workshop - I will be forever grateful for that day.”

While the purpose of the Look Good Feel Better program is to equip participants with the practical skills and knowledge needed to help manage the physical side effects of treatment, there is no denying the connections that thousands of our participants form through our workshops each year are just as impactful. These connections help reduce feelings of isolation, and provide the mental and emotional strength to navigate the challenges that diagnosis and treatment can entail.

And for the Look Good Feel Better program, our connection with our community of supporters is equally invaluable. It is because of you that our program can continue to run, benefitting participants like Monica and Danielle long after each workshop is completed.

This June, Anton and Jenny Gaudry from the Gaundry Foundation have generously agreed to strengthen their connection to the Look Good Feel Better program by dollar-matching any tax-deductible donation made before the end of financial year.

If you are able to give a gift this tax time you can do so knowing that your kindness will have double the impact, helping to build connections that truly make a long-lasting difference.

We thank you for your generosity.

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