By the nature of its side effects, cancer treatment can make a private battle a very public affair. For a woman with cancer, having a bald head, pale skin or a missing breast can make her feel like she's being targeted by a bright spotlight and a banner that says, "Cancer patient."
But now more than ever, there are resources for women that will put the spotlight back on their work, their accomplishments and their life—and change that banner to simply read, "Woman."
Locally, women with cancer can get complimentary beauty sessions through the Look Good Feel Better program, a non-medical, brand-neutral public service program that teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.
The following upcoming Look Good Feel Better events are planned in our area. To find additional events, visit the program finder online. Pre-registration is required. To register or for more information, call (973) 331-9300.
- Nov. 5, 6:30 to 8:30pm: Morristown Medical Center in Morristown.
- Nov. 9, 11am to 1pm: Cancer Care at St. Clare’s in Denville.
- Nov. 19, 10am to 12noon: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge.
- Nov. 19, 10am to 12noon: Morristown Medical Center in Morristown.
- Nov. 26, 2 to 4pm: Sparta Cancer Center in Sparta.
- Dec. 3, 10am to 12noon: The Steeplechase Cancer Center at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville.
- Dec. 3, 1 to 3pm: Chilton Memorial Hospital in Pompton Plains.
- Dec. 10, 6:30 to 8:30pm: Morristown Medical Center in Morristown.
- Dec. 14 10am to 12noon: Joan Knechel Cancer Center at Hackettstown Memorial Medical Center in Hackettstown.
- Dec. 17, 10am to 12noon: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge.
- Jan. 7, 2013, 11am to 1pm: Cancer Care at St. Clare’s in Denville.
- Jan. 14, 2013, 2 to 4pm: Sparta Cancer Center in Sparta.
For wigs, Girl on the Go provides private or in-home wig consultations for women with cancer, with locations in 12 states, including Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Breast cancer survivor Sheril Cohen started the business after her own struggles with hair loss that were matched only by the frustrating process of getting a wig.
"Wig shopping was awful," Cohen shares on her website. "[The attendant] tried to sell me this wig. I thought it was a cute cut, but I thought it made me older and unattractive. I cried. I felt sexy with my long hair. With this wig on I felt like a suburban fortysomething-year-old soccer mom. I was successful, single, a thirtysomething NYC woman. I wanted to retain me—not become someone I did not recognize."
Now Cohen proudly sells wigs of all kinds—synthetic, hybrid, human hair—to women all over the country, providing, as one of her clients says, privacy.
"I felt so like myself in my wig," said Ellen, a client. "No one knew. People who knew I had been diagnosed but did not know much else used to come up to me at events and ask when I was going to start chemo or if I had chosen a doctor yet. I did not have to tell anyone anything I did not want to tell them."
As women in chemotherapy treatment discover, hair loss isn't limited to their locks. It means no eyebrows, no eyelashes and, as Cohen points out, one bright spot—no shaving.
Women can visit a lash studio to get back that feminine flutter of the lashes, and maybe even amp up their look with a few sexy, extra-long lash extensions.
There also resources online for women who have had surgery during treatment. KA Mastectomy Bras and Apparel, started by survivor Kimberly Ashmand, features pretty and practical bras tailored to the unique needs of survivors, as well as some with a little lace and sparkle to help women feel sexy again.
Adopting a new look during treatment is about more than simply feeling good for the moment—it can be another weapon in a woman's arsenal against cancer, giving her a deep well of positivity to sustain her.