Getting Prepared for a Cancer Journey – It’s ALL About You!

By Carin G Hansen

This article is for and about you as you begin your cancer journey.

The first step of the cancer journey relates to health concerns and beauty issues for you to evaluate. You will want to answer the following basic questions. The answers to these questions will help you make good choices for yourself.

Question 1: In what way will my body change with surgery and/or treatment?

Explanation: For some of you, surgery and/or treatment will not affect your external body a great deal. Perhaps your most bothersome external side effect will be generalized swelling that will call for looser fitting clothing and elasticized waistlines. Others of you will have external body altering surgeries and/or treatment. Be sure to utilize local resources available to you related to clothing, undergarments and special needs garments.

Question 2: Will I keep my hair, have partial hair loss or complete hair loss including eyebrows and eyelashes?

Explanation: Different treatments and drugs will dictate the amount of hair loss, if any, during your cancer journey. Ask your oncologist what to expect based on the treatment and/or drugs in your program. Think about what amount of hair loss (“alopecia” is the medical term) you will experience. Once you know the answer to this question, you will be able to make headwear choices that suit you, and know if you will need (and want) to consider replacement eyebrows and eyelashes.

Question 3: During what season(s) of the year will my surgery(s) and/or treatment be?

Question 4: What type of climate do I live in? Is it generally hot, cold or moderate during the months I will be having treatment?

Explanations for questions #3 and #4: These questions are asking the same thing, but in a different way. For some of you, your treatment will take longer, so it is important to look at each of the seasons your treatment will span. If your treatment regimen is only going to span one or perhaps two seasons, your considerations will be different from those whose treatment regimens will span multiple seasons. I have first posed the question from the standpoint of what special days and holidays your treatment period will encompass. Consider whether your anniversary (what anniversary it is), birthdays (again what birthdays they are), work related conferences, special events and so on will take place during treatment. Although you may choose not to wear a wig for everyday, you may want to go ahead and get a wig for these special occasions. There will be additional things to consider such as the best clothing choices for your lifestyle and profession, whether false ( prosthetic) eyelashes and eyebrows are something you are interested in trying and other image issues. Secondly, I am asking you to consider some different things if you live where it is going to be cool to cold the majority of your treatment time and you are going to lose all of your hair. The cold weather will dictate things like a sleeping cap for nights and warmer hats or a wig during the days. Conversely, if you live where it is warm to hot the majority of your treatment time, you may want to consider options to wigs for headwear. Wigs are very warm so lightweight scarves and cotton turbans may be a viable part-time or full-time alternative to a wig. Make your clothing choices based on both comfort and ease during treatment, keeping in mind the season(s) you will be having your treatment – whether surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of the above treatments..

Do not become overwhelmed with these questions and issues. At a time when most every part of your life is out of control, you can have control over these areas – so have some fun!

Question 5: What kinds of hairstyles look good on me? Do I wear my hair very short or do I like having a lot of hair around my face?

Question 6: Do I like hats?

Question 7: Am I a risk-taker with my wardrobe and accessories?

Question 8: Do I love simple, natural clothing or am I more dramatic?

Question 9: Do I always wear makeup no matter the day?

Explanations for questions #5 through #9: This is a fun series of questions to ponder. That is because they are truly ALL about YOU!.

Think about what hairstyles you have gotten the most complements on over the years. Also, do you love to wear hats or just see other people wearing them? Your answers may lead you to choose a wig as your only type of headwear (if the other factors already considered are right) or hats, turbans and scarves instead. Wigs are beautiful, natural looking and safe emotionally because they offer a bit of privacy during your cancer journey. Hats, turbans and scarves are beautiful, and they make a bold, confident statement about how you feel about yourself. That is because, headwear choices other than wigs generally let others know that you are on a cancer journey. You will need to decide if you are comfortable with that.

Those of you who are risk-takers with your wardrobe and accessory choices love trends and the latest styles. The majority of you are more comfortable in classic styles of clothing and accessories. I am certain you are beginning to see some patterns in how you answer these questions. The more daring and dramatic you are the more you will be ready to make a “cancer treatment fashion statement”. On the other hand, if you tend toward classic, you will choose things that are very similar to your pre-cancer journey outfits. Neither is right or wrong, they are simply your choice… isn’t that wonderful?!

If you love very simple natural fabrics, patterns and accessories, and if you have chosen not to wear a wig, you will tend to choose scarves of soft cotton in solids or with a simple pattern. You will surround yourself with clothing, headwear and accessories that are not fussy and require no special care. I suggest everyone adopt a comfort policy during this time in your life even if you are most comfortable emotionally in dramatic, make-a-statement outfits. You can accomplish both of these at the same time, as you will see in chapter three.

I am certain some of you always wear makeup no matter the day. If makeup is as important to you as the clothes you wear, then you may want to take a few extra steps with your makeup during treatment. Look at your choices and choose a makeup regimen that will make you the happiest with your appearance!

Others of you choose to go sans makeup often. Makeup may elevate your mood during treatment, so you might want to choose a very simple makeup regimen during treatment. Make certain your skin gets the moisture and nutrition it needs whether you wear makeup or not.

Question 10: Will I work part-time, full-time or not at all during treatment?

Question 11: If I will work, will I be in front of groups of people on a regular basis?

Explanations for questions #10 and #11: Generally, your care team will be advising you to try to lighten your workload, if financially feasible. For many of you not working during treatment will not be an option for you.

My purpose in posing this question is to have you think about work in terms of your work image. If your work demands you be in contact with many people on a daily basis in a professional atmosphere; a wig, false (prosthetic) eyebrows and eyelashes or a makeup regimen that includes using eyebrow stencils and eyelash techniques are as important as professional clothing. If however, your work situation keeps you behind the scenes you can choose how much or how little you want to do in terms of dealing with these beauty issues… and do not forget that whether you are in the limelight or behind the scenes, you will want comfortable, easy to care for clothing.

Question 12: Do I exercise moderately, aggressively or not at all?

Explanation for question #12: The final thing you will want to consider before beginning treatment is your level of physical fitness. Do you exercise several times a week? Do you work out at a health club or are you a “do-it-at-homer”? Perhaps exercise is more of a hit-and-miss event for you? Maybe it has been years since you did any formal type of exercise. You will want to ask your doctor about exercise and the benefits it can offer you while you are going through cancer treatment.

Now that you have a good handle on your answers to these questions, you can start preparing for your journey. You are in the fight of your life, and for your life – being prepared, as much as possible, will allow you to focus on that fight with all your strength.

Carin Hansen was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40. After a long battle she emerged victorious and began a one-on-one wardrobe and beauty consulting business for other women journeying through cancer. She has been a model, actress, talent agency owner, benefit founder, certified acting/modeling instructor, writer, speaker and passionate cancer advocate. Please visit Carin’s website at http://www.bridges2beauty.net for information and encouragement that is helpful and hopeFULL. You can purchase a hard copy of her book “Woman’s Cancer Journey Primer” or upload a free PDF on the website also. It is important to remember that Carin is not a physician and does not subscribe to or recommend any particular medical procedure or alternative treatment. She strongly urges you to consult with your Primary Physician, Oncologist and/or Surgeon before implementing any of her suggestions f ound in her articles, newsletter, blogs and books.

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