Things moved very quickly. The following week I had a mastectomy to remove my left breast and shortly after I began a course of intensive chemotherapy over four months. That’s when my life really changed, I went from being fit, energetic and independent to sick, weak and totally dependent. At times, I barely recognised myself. But I guess like anything in life, I had two choices – to let the situation swallow me or find a way to get through it.
As hard as it was, I was determined to maintain as much normality in my life as possible. I thought I could be like Samantha from Sex and the City, sipping cocktails in a wig and keeping it together. I quickly realised chemo was nothing like the way Samantha made it look. But I did my best.
With the constant exhaustion and endless side effects, physically things became difficult for me. But more than that, it’s also incredibly mentally exhausting dealing with cancer. The amount of mental energy it takes to get up each day and stay motivated can be really draining. But it was important for me to stay connected to my life and I think this desire to stay connected made me so much stronger in the end.
I work in the cosmetics industry as a training manager so my job is to present in front beauty advisors in a classroom. I continued to work through my treatment when I was able to. It may have seemed like business as usual but of course it wasn’t easy.
And then there’s the appearance-related side-effects. I’d volunteered at many Look Good Feel Better workshops over the years so I had witnessed the impact these workshops had on women undergoing treatment. But it really hit home when I was suddenly on the other side. Learning that I would lose my hair was frightening. Going bald meant losing some of my identity, it meant losing a bit of control and it meant I would actually look like a cancer patient. I made the most of my hair loss by experimenting with scarves and of course investing in a wig so I could continue to do my job with confidence. And thank God for make-up! The worse I felt, the brighter my lipstick became and the bigger my false lashes were.
Look Good Feel Better is such an amazing program because it equips women with those tips and tricks you need to feel like yourself again. And it’s so comforting to be able to attend a workshop and meet people you can relate to.
So here I am, one year later, on the other side of the most challenging time of my life. And I’m honored to be part of this great cause. I’m now in remission and looking forward to getting the all-clear. I have gained so much in the past year. Cancer has been my greatest teacher. One thing I’ve learnt is to just enjoy the present moment because you truly don’t know what’s around the corner.”
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