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young bald woman after chemotherapy in a pink dress

How I Masked The Effects Of Chemotherapy At Work

I went through chemotherapy for breast cancer in the Spring through Summer of 2007.  By choice and necessity, I worked during treatment, missing a couple of days here and there for transfusions and the next day weakness. I was very lucky to have been able to continue working, it really helped to keep my mind off of my illness and dwelling about my condition. I told my Bosses about my illness, but needed to keep it a secret from others unfortunately. I learned how to do my makeup and wigs realistically, and used my clothing to hide the weight changes I went through.

I just wanted to encourage others to not feel bad about their appearance during this time –  it is temporary – and to take the time to use makeup and wigs to simply feel better.

Before chemo I had below shoulder length hair, when I found out I would be going through chemo, I immediately cut my hair very short so that the “fall out” would be less shocking. I went to my favorite wig store and got a similar length wig, which I would style with a side ponytail – styling it this way made it seem more real and not “plopped on my head. This wig and my three other styles (I progressively went shorter for the Summer heat) fooled everyone.

Women often came up to me to ask who my hairdresser was, they were serious! Wigs look great because they are straightened or curled perfectly – I used this time to have fun with different styles.

All of my wigs were synthetic so they were reasonable in price and I was able to switch styles and revolve them for cleaning at the wig store.

As for make up, I was finally able to shape my brows in the shape I always wanted because I had none! I drew them on with a pencil, filled in with a powder and stiff angle brush, then fixed them with clear mascara. I used a powder eyeliner close to my bare lash line so no one noticed I had lost my lashes, and omitted a bottom liner – sometimes it smears and makes a raccoon eye, attracting more attention to the area. Powder foundation, a line of bronzer on my cheeks, a sweep of blush over the bronzer and lip gloss and I was ready to go!

Finger and toenails were another battle. Mine became very yellow or brownish red, some even fell off. Of course it was Summer-sandal weather! I kept the nails I had very short, painted them a dark color, even painting the skin where I had lost nails. My hands and feet looked pretty good.

During my treatment, I began to tell more people about what I was going through, but even today, two years later, some are shocked to hear I had cancer! I saw them regularly during my treatment, they hadn’t noticed in my appearance that I was ill.

I know all of this sounds shallow but keeping my appearance up was good for my morale. It is easy to dwell on how horrible you may feel or look when you lose your hair, feel nauseous, etc, so trying to look normal, even having fun with your look really helps. It also helps people around you who know what you are going through. If they see you coping and doing ok, they don’t pity you or feel uncomfortable around you. They are also less afraid of the illness and treatment. I had a few friends who began going to the doctor, getting checkups and mammograms on schedule after seeing me dealing with things. Before, they were actually frightened or nervous to go get checked! I also felt great, thinking that I helped make them realize how important it is for them to take their health seriously.

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Lisal Mann
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Lisal Mann

I did the same as you, but I did tell people what I was going through. I'm single and really needed that good suupport system. The only time I let myself really think about what I was going through was when I had a doctor's appointment or a treatment. I “let” myself be sick on those days. I wanted everyone and everything to stay as close to normal as possible. I just had my “one year since diagnosis” mark on August 18. I had 8 tough chemo treatments, double mastectomy, 33 radiation treatments, a total hysterectomy, and am in the process of reconstruction. I have great bosses and co-workers who helped because I worked the whole time only missing a few days. except when I had surgery…During the past year, my oldest daughter got married and my other daughter was a senior in high school. She played basketball and had… Read more »

CeCee
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CeCee

Hi! I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the first thing that came to mind was how it would change my appearance. Then I got angry with myself ” You vain b@$&% you have an 8 year old son a family who loves you a great job fantastic co workers and your first thought is your looks? How about a small thing called survival? How about that?” I would consider myself a humble person but I find myself constantly complimented on my looks so I guess I just took for granted that it would always be that way until cancer threatened to alter it. Is this some sort of life lesson? Was I taking to much for granted? I wore wigs all the time more for fashion than necessity. I had a in your face full blowout Afro underneath. When I started chemotherapy I was told by my second treatment… Read more »

Rebecca
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Rebecca

I read that and thought it was my story. I did the same thing the only people that new at work were my bosses and my very very close friends a total of 7 people. Nobody had a clue there was a thing wrong with me. When I was out for my double masectomy they thought I was out having a tummy tuck. Little did they know I would come back heavier than when I left. People may think your being shallow or vain. Let them! They aren't fighting the battle. I used to care what people thought now after all of this and pre reconstruction I finally love me for me! I only wish I thought of cutting my hair short before I had to shave it totally. That transition might have been easier. Best of luck to all the fighters out there! WE ARE SURVIVORS!

New Beginnings
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New Beginnings

One of the most POSITIVE articles! SO real and helpful. Thank you! And you’re not lucky; God loves you and chose to bless you in this way. Continue to stay healthy and live a long long happy life!!!

Rocllfan59
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Rocllfan59

I followed a similiar routine,except I was lucky,I didn't lose nails. But I didn't cut my long hair enough,so the “falling out” was very traumatic….

Tummy tuck
Guest

ξSame situation here. I have also cut my hair which is really now too short. Now i am kicking my self that i have done lunatic things..

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I to went through chemo and radiation during the spring and summer of 2007. I was very fortunate to work were I did. My biggest support came from my co-workers, yes I to worked all thru my treatments…most days I only worked half days. Im single and couldn't imagine not working and having to be with myself at home. As far as my apperence shaving my head was the hardest part of this whole process, but me and bandana's and scarfs soon became friends, as wigs just didnt feel good to me.

cyndi
Guest
cyndi

Thank you for this. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer but several things prevent her from being able to have chemo. Luckily a little miracle pill, Arimidex, is taking the cancer away. My sis in law was just diagnosed with cervical cancer and is about to undergo chemo. I will make sure she gets this post somehow. It is of great value to anyone undergoing chemo. Thank you!
cyndi

Tld753
Guest
Tld753

An excellent article about looking good during chemo, just because you are (temporarily) sick doesn't mean you have to look it…

Soup
Guest
Soup

very helpful information. i will be going through chemo in a few weeks, and am only 29. appearance is important to me! as anyone. scared though 🙁

Gcap319
Guest
Gcap319

How totally wonderful for you to write this. I very often feel guilty, because I a only on a hormone. It was caught early so I preach that. God bless all you suvivors . No hairloss, chemo or radiation.

Dtrepkau
Guest
Dtrepkau

I had two rounds of chemo and 28 days of radiation. The biggest thing that got me through all of this was making myself look like myself. I always wore makeup. I had my wigs also. I agree with you the better you make yourself look the better your attitude is. The days I had chemo, I always had my makeup and wig on. Some days were very hard for me. Chemo and I did not get along at all. I did not tell many people either. Everyone just thought I cut my hair. The weight is hard to hide. I called it a diet. I have been doing the same as you. I think it is the best way to get through all of this .

Renay
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Renay

thank you for those tips! seLf image is very important to seLf-esteem. I don't consider it vanity to want to Look good even when we are sick. this was very heLpfuL to me. u were creative! keep up those good spirits.

Greeneland
Guest
Greeneland

terrific advise – thank you for sharing

jamie
Guest
jamie

anyone have any tips on reconstruction when u are broke..i have insurance but don't know where to begin. thanks for anyips

Dtrepkau
Guest
Dtrepkau

Check with the Cancer Society to see if they have any grants or know of doc who will take your insurance. There are groups around that will help with your medical bills. Talk to your social worker at the cancer center.

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

I”m pretty sure that insurance has to cover reconstruction after a cancer diag. Best bet is to check with your insurance provider. Best of luck to you.

Lisal Mann
Guest
Lisal Mann

Insurance is supposed to pay for the reconstruction since it is due to cancer. Check with the company you have your insurance with.

Ellyn
Guest
Ellyn

This worked for me (really!) – have your oncologist write you a prescription for a wig! I took that prescription to my local wig salon and I got my wig for free! Also check your local chapter of the American Cancer Society – my local chapter had a very nice selection of wigs available free to cancer patients.

Terri Lane
Guest
Terri Lane

How very sad that my fellow cancer patients feel like they have to “cover” the side effects of chemo. I would sooner die than give in to the shallowness of society. I have never and will never “hide” any effect, side or otherwise, of my cancer or the treatments. If people are uncomfortable with how I look or won't do business with me because of how I look, or if my boss or fellow employees are uncomfortable, I simply say “I completely understand, imagine how uncomfortable I am when I have been puking for 36 hours and have to come to work and try to make you all feel “ok” with how I look.” That usually shuts anyone up. I feel so bad for any cancer patient who feels a need to hide herself so others won't feel uncomfortable. GET A NEW JOB OR NEW FRIENDS!!!

Soup
Guest
Soup

i think this is about me, and how I feel! my friends and family would never make me feel bad. i (we) are going through a lot, and i personally, want to look good for me! it makes this easier. everyone deals in different ways.

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