Cancer Patients Feeling and Looking Better

Thursday, 6 November 2014
Joan Pethybridge and her Mum Bev are facing the biggest challenges of their lives but are now looking good and feeling better after taking part in a support program for cancer patients at Portland District Health.

Joan and Bev, both from Portland, have been diagnosed with unrelated breast cancer this year but say the Look Good Feel Better workshop on October 29 has helped them to regain self-esteem and feel normal.

The workshops help to boost the confidence and wellbeing of women, men and teens while undergoing treatment for any sort of cancer. The session this week in Portland helped a group of women to learn new make-up and styling techniques.

Joan and Bev were referred to the program through PDH Cancer Link Nurse Elaine Norton.

Joan was diagnosed in early March, has had eight rounds of chemotherapy and surgery, is about to undergo six weeks or radiotherapy and continues with targeted treatment until August 2015.

Especially when you're young it really shakes you,she said. I have a two and a four year old and it was the last thing I expected. You don’t question your mortality when you're 35

Bev, 73, was diagnosed more recently and will require surgery, hormone therapy and radiation.

Bev is on the start of the journey. Joan is half-way through treatment and lost her hair three weeks after starting chemotherapy. I've got about an inch of hair now but it's very fine. I used to have very thick long blonde hair.

Bev was diagnosed after Joan consulted a geneticist at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. I was told that I did not have the BRCA1, BRCA2, TP53 or PTEN cancer genes, nevertheless due to my age of diagnosis, my sisters and mother needed to be checked. Unfortunately, when Mum was screened her result was positive for breast cancer, although a totally different cancer to mine.

Bev's cancer was detected early and she doesn’t require chemotherapy, while Joan has a more aggressive stage three cancer.

It must be picked up early so they can work with it. Early detection is a must,Joan said.

The good news is that Joan's recovery has been promising. The second lot of chemo did knock me about quite a bit but I got through surgery quite well and I'm still doing physio to get full mobility of my left arm after having 15 lymph nodes removed.

My recovery has been better than I was expecting,she said.

However, the physical impacts of the treatment meant Joan needed to think of new ways of presenting herself.

One of the worst things about breast cancer is that it makes you feel unfeminine and you look washed out. Your self-esteem plummets.

The Look Good Feel Better workshop was fantastic to be a part of,Joan said.

It showed us new techniques and ideas, especially with make-up application. When you go through chemotherapy and hormonal therapy you can lose your eyebrows, eye lashes and your hair and your skin gets affected.

To be able to wear make-up, put on a scarf or hat, allows you to get on with your day and feel normal,Joan said.

It gave us ideas on how to make ourselves feel nice again and feel presentable.

It was also fun for participants. It was fun to do the workshop with ladies going through similar circumstance, to see what we looked like using different makeup techniques, and adapt new ideas in headwear. We all learnt styling you wouldn’t necessarily think of. I think all cancer patients would benefit from the Look Good Feel Better program,Joan said.

Joan said she would like to volunteer in the future to help other women dealing with cancer.

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