For 40-year-old Vanessa, a routine health check resulted in the worst kind of surprise – a breast cancer diagnosis. The career-driven Sydney mother of three boys, Nicholas (6) and identical twins William and Alexander (4), sought out a Look Good Feel Better workshop in the hope that it would help her regain control. This is Vanessa’s story…

“I was really fortunate to have the lump in my breast picked up during a routine executive health check, provided by my employer. I don’t think I would have picked it up. I knew as soon as I saw the look on my GP’s face that my biopsy had come back positive for cancer, and of course I was in total shock.

Immediately my thoughts went to my boys, and doing whatever I had to do to be there for them. After the initial shock, I just decided to take this as I take everything else – with positivity and energy – there’s a process to go through, and I’m going to beat it!

My life has changed dramatically since diagnosis. It’s slowed down a lot. I’ve been really fortunate to have an incredibly supportive workplace, so have been out of the office for the last three weeks. It has helped me appreciate the things I think I’ve often been too busy to appreciate, not sweating the small stuff. I am taking time out to look after myself, something I don’t think I did a lot of!

 

I am spending more time listening to my body and trying to acknowledge when it’s tired. I’m really enjoying being around a lot more for my boys, after school, going to the park when I’m up to it, helping with homework. I know you hear a lot that things like this really put things in perspective, but it really does. I’m making changes to my mindset that I hope will be long lasting.

Of course there’s then the thousands (ok, slight exaggeration) of doctor’s appointments, the chemo routine, and getting used to people’s reactions when I tell them! I’ve started a blog for updating my friends and family, which I’ve really enjoyed doing. It’s my way of sharing what I’m going through, without having to repeat myself a thousand times, but its also really cathartic for me.

I had a few people talk to me about the Look Good Feel Better workshop and say it was good for them. I’ve always been someone who wears make-up and I wanted to get a good idea of how to feel good about myself, particularly around the hair loss – and how to draw on eyebrows! I also thought it was a good chance to be in a room with other women who are going through similar experiences.

After you’ve been diagnosed, it’s easy to feel like you have lost control of things. Being a slight control freak I thought the Look Good Feel Better workshop would help me regain some of that control, at least as far as what I look like. I learnt really great make-up tips; reducing redness, doing some great eye make-up and drawing on eyebrows! The workshop also gave me the opportunity to try on some different headwear. I loved the turbans and scarves, and had fun with the wigs!

The best things about the workshop would have had to be the volunteers! They are so great, they really appreciate what we’re going through, and are there to help and make you feel great. I would absolutely recommend Look Good Feel Better to others going through treatment. It’s informative, it’s fun – what have you got to lose?”