Friday, January 08, 2010

Cancer gets a makeover: Chanel and Mary Kay to the rescue!

"Hey, Ashley," I said to my youngest daughter, "wanna come keep me company while I get a makeover?"

"Sure." What a good daughter she is! But this isn't just any makeover. This is a makeover sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and the National Cosmetology Association -- and its whole goal is to help cancer patients feel good about themselves.

Several years ago, some creepy plastic surgeon told me that I had just a touch of skin cancer on my face and then proceeded to cut off my entire top lip. "Oh you can't even tell that it's gone," most of my friends said. But I can tell. So when this makeover class was offered I got all excited and pleased. I want one! I want my lip to "Feel good..Look better!" like the class brochure says.

First one cosmetologist taught us how to tie scarves and wear wigs. I didn't have a problem with my hair falling out due to chemotherapy but the other women in my class did. "I get chemo once every three weeks," the woman next to me said. "I've had it one time already and my hair has already started to fall out."

"How many chemo sessions will you have?"

"We're hoping that four should do it but you never can tell." She had breast cancer.

The woman sitting next to her also had breast cancer. "My hair came down to my waist just three weeks ago. And now I'm practically bald." Then she expressed her worst fear. "I just don't want to look like a sick cancer patient."

Hats to the rescue! A volunteer group called "Knots of Love" crochets hats for chemo patients. They're mostly in the 1930s cloche style. They're totally cute. "I'd wear one of those," said Ashley. Then they taught us how to cut the bottoms off T-shirts and turn them into coolness head wraps. And Ashley suggested wearing hoop earrings as well -- to add a touch of panache. And I of course suggested big, bold colorful glasses -- like glasses manufacturers keep refusing to make. Have you ever noticed that almost every pair of glasses on sale in the entire WORLD are stupid and unflattering rectangular shapes in only two or three dull colors? It's true. But I digress.

"Cut your hair BEFORE you start chemo," the instructors warned the class, "or you will just feel bad when you see it all falling out. And stop getting manicures and pedicures unless you bring your own tools to the salon. As a cancer patient, you are more susceptible to infections than most and need to take extra precautions. Also, only use light-colored nail polish. The darker shades and acrylic nails have too many chemicals. You already have enough chemicals in your bodies. You don't need any more. Also avoid showering in very hot water, to keep your skin from drying out. And put oil or lotion on your skin before showering. Cetaphil is good.

"The first week of chemo is the worst."

And then they brought out the cosmetics. We each got our own gift bag. There must have been hundreds of dollars worth of war paint in those bags. Geez Louise. If you gotta have cancer, you might as well enjoy whatever aspect of this horrible disease that you can.

"Did they detect your cancer with a mammogram?" I asked the woman next to me.

"No, it was too deep." And the woman next to her had the same problem. No lumps or nothing. Now with me it was just the opposite. I've had mammograms, biopsies and lord knows what all else -- but thankfully no cancer. Except for my lip. But I was too focused on trying on hats to remember exactly how these women's cancers DID get detected. Sorry about that.

"Now we are going to tell you how to shape your eyebrows with your new NYC eyebrow pencil." Good luck with that one. I looked like a clown. "You could practice at home," the cosmetologist said, tactfully. Ashley volunteered to give me lessons. Fine.

Next came the Bobbi Brown eye shadow. "Use a light color for all the area from your lashes to your brow. Then fill in the crease with a darker color." They gave us shades of tan and brown.

"But what about blue and purple?" I asked.

"Uh no." Ashley was firm. But I bet that's just because she coveted the bottle of Chanel iridescent blue eye shadow that I got. Hey that's mine!

We also learned how to use American Beauty blush, Mary Kay cleansing cream, Clarins foundation makeup, Physicians Formula concealer and Este Lauder powder in a coolness golden compact case. Then came the important part. "Jane, you need to enlarge your upper lip with this Wet N Wild lip liner and then use the Aveda lipstick to make it pop." Which I did. Hey, not bad!

Then came the MOST important part. We all gave everyone in the class -- and each other -- high-fives and hugs. And Ashley promised to buy them all a scoop of Ciao Bella gelato in North Berkeley (she works there) on the day that they finished their chemo. Brave women all. Even me. And nice women too. Have you ever noticed that most cancer patients seem to be both very brave -- and very nice. Hell, even I had fun and laughed a lot.

Cancer got a makeover. Yaay!

Then Ashley and I went off to Carl's Jr to celebrate our victory with Superstar burgers and to show off my new look. Angelina Jolie, eat your heart out! My upper lip is PERFECT right now. And here's the video to prove it too.

PS: I was a little hesitant to write about this "Look Good..Feel Better" makeover class but as I was leaving one of the instructors asked me to tell as many people as I could about this wonderful program. So I am. If you know any women with cancer, tell them about it. And even men too. Here's the link to help find a program near you:

PPS: If anyone knows how I could volunteer to go help out in Haiti, please let me know. I have knowledge and experience with Jin Shin Jyutsu emergency first aid techniques and with Tibetan P'howa pre-death counseling aids. And if you want to make a monetary donation, my friend Arla suggests this site:

Since its inception in March 2004, the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (H.E.R.F.) has given concrete aid to Haiti’s grassroots democratic movement as they attempted to survive the brutal coup and to rebuild shattered development projects. We urge you to contribute generously, not only for this immediate crisis, but in order to support the long-run development of human rights, sustainable agriculture and economic justice in Haiti. ALL MONEY GOES DIRECTLY TO GRASS ROOTS ORGANIZATIONS.

There are two ways to donate: By Pay Pal at: <>

Or by mail -- check made out to: "Haiti Emergency Relief Fund/EBSC". Send mail to:
East Bay Sanctuary Covenant
2362 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

EBSC is a non-profit 502(c)(3) organization tax ID#94-249753. Donations tax deductible.