Make up and No Make Up Selfies

Seeing all the “no make up” selfies on Facebook this past week ironically reminded me that I hadn’t chatted about the make up workshop I attended some weeks ago.


I heard about the “Look Good Feel Better” program just after my first chemo treatment around the time my hair started falling out and while I was researching headscarves on the web.  The sites I found gave advice on dealing with the other physical side effects of chemo such as eyebrow and eyelash loss and included info on LGFB and what they do.


Basically in a nutshell they are an organisation started in the USA after an Oncologist asked his receptionist to buy and put some make up on  one of his patients who was battling with self esteem issues after undergoing chemo.  His theory was that if she was looking better she would automatically feel better about herself…blah blah blah..  It all sounded rather chauvinistic to me…..


To put it even more bluntly I had no interest in or any intention of attending any of these workshops.  I have never been into make up in any big way and I guess I definitely was not in the right space to appreciate or fathom just how attending a make up workshop could make me feel better about ANYTHING since my surgery.  It certainly seemed like an awful way to capitalise on and trivialise a terribly traumatic time in women’s lives:  ‘sorry you got cancer and lost so much of yourself – but here, slap on some make up and all will be well!’  OK, so I REALLY wasn’t in a good place!


However a month ago one of the soldiers I met at the cancer center asked if I would attend the February workshop with her.  I was really conflicted and still not convinced about the concept… but after a bit of soul searching and taking a big step off my high horse, I felt I really could not refuse an opportunity to support a woman just starting her chemo journey AND there was the promise of tea, cookies and free stuff!!


Pete had previously been on the other end of my ranting about exactly why I would never attend one of these workshops, so when I told him I had booked myself into one that very next week he looked rather surprised, but certainly was not brave enough to question my reasoning, afterall he had spent the last 4 months living with a woman with chemo brain and hormonal imbalances!


The workshop coincided with Adele’s trip and I thought it may be a good way to diffuse the shock of her visit to the Cancer center with me.  So as soon as chemo was done that February morning, Adele drove us off to St Annes hospital.


We arrived out of breath and about 35 mins late due to slow dripping chemo drugs and walking up 3 flights of stairs (paranoia may also have contributed to my breathlessness – I kept trying not to breathe too deeply considering I was entering a hospital, a place teeming with unseen germs just waiting to attack me and my severely compromised immune system!).  Sadly my chemo buddy was absent, her white blood count too low to be anywhere but in bed.


One of the volunteers helped me catch up with the rest of the class.  I was presented with a toiletry bag crammed full of make up, a cleanser, a moisuriser and a makeup mirror in which to witness my miraculous transformation!  Yay, REALLY cool free stuff!!


Free stuff!

Free stuff!


My face was quickly cleansed and prepped, I was shown how to correctly apply eyeshadow, mascara, eye liner and blusher.  The make up consultant volunteer was showing the ladies how to correctly draw in eyebrows  and how to give the illusion of eyelashes using eyeliner.  I was one of the lucky ones who still had eyebrows and lashes, and even though they had thinned out quite a bit, thankfully they were still there.


They spoke about wigs and head coverings, I was even able to show them how to use an old T-shirt as a head cover – thanks to google!


It ended up being more than just about the make up. I discovered the organisation relies on trained volunteers and all the make up gets donated by various cosmetic houses.  One of our volunteers had completed her cancer treatment in October last year.  We were all very envious of her thick  Rupunzel like locks (ok so maybe to the outside world she looked like someone with a short, funky haircut).  We  exchanged info about the best hair growth solutions, I spoke to 2 ladies about their experiences with radiation and the side effects they encountered.
I was even asked to demonstrate the T-shirt tying technique on one poor unsuspecting husband who had the misfortune of arriving early!  This was the same husband I overheard, as he was leaving with his gorgeous newly made up wife proudly sporting her new “eyebrows”, thanking the volunteers for making her smile….


So despite my misgivings and my previously sarcastic remarks, it was a great morning!  Another opportunity to share war stories, learn, teach and adapt on our individual paths.  I think we all left there feeling more positive and prettier than when we walked in, and perhaps more positive and prettier than we had in a very long time.


So if anyone is looking to donate to another good cause while taking their no make up selfies, please consider the Look Good Feel Better foundation.  There is not much out there to help woman cope with the after effects of chemo, and this relatively unknown group is doing an amazing job….



Your Assistance is Needed!
Look Good… Feel Better is entirely reliant on the generosity of others, this mainly includes cosmetic companies in South Africa who donate quantities of cosmetic products to be used by cancer patients undergoing treatment, made up in the form of “goody bags”. Others have donated cash amounts and in some cases a portion of proceeds made by sales of their products. Whatever the donation, LGFB remains deeply grateful and indebited to those who have chosen to help.Today’s difficult financial times have meant that less is being donated but the needs grow. It is with this in mind that we appeal to all who are able to assist in any way to make use of our donation facilities.Please complete the form below – your generosity will be hugely appreciated.

Banking Details:

Account Name:

Look Good Feel Better Foundation

Clearing Code:


Account Number:

Randpark Ridge
620 571 78636
“‎Lipstick is really magical. It holds more than a waxy bit of color – it holds the promise of a brilliant smile, a brilliant day, both literally and figuratively.” Roberta Gately


“When I was your age…I wish I’d known that I already had everything I needed within myself to be happy, instead of looking for happiness at beauty counters.” Ilene Beckerman


“Consider the fact that maybe…just maybe…beauty and worth aren’t found in a makeup bottle, or a salon-fresh hairstyle, or a fabulous outfit. Maybe our sparkle comes from somewhere deeper inside, somewhere so pure and authentic and REAL, it doesn’t need gloss or polish or glitter to shine.” Mandy Hale


“I fought a killer and didn’t even smudge my makeup.” Rose Pressey


“How obvious can it be? … The purpose of makeup is to defy the degradations of time, and time is just a synonym for death.” Dean Koonz

Please Sir….

Friday saw me heading back to the Cancer centre armed with a chocolate beer box cake and some pink ribbon roses which I had made (the roses I mean, not the cake – cancer may have given me a different perspective on life, but it hasn’t turned me into a baker!).  I wasn’t quite sure how to thank the staff and sisters for taking such good care of me over the last 5 and a half months, how do you even begin…. but chocolate seemed a good way to try!

My version of the pink breast cancer ribbon.

My version of the pink breast cancer ribbon.

Friday would have been the last official day of my chemo plan and arriving at the cancer centre had me feeling rather conflicted.  Trying not to look too happy or appearing insensitive to all those soldiers on their lazy boys, but so relieved that it wasn’t me….or was I?

Now before I sound completely derranged, I mean WHO in their right mind would be anything but overjoyed at finishing chemo?!  However it’s amazing how self preservation beats logic, every time.

I was suddenly assulted by all these doubts, what happens if recurrance occurs because I finished chemo early, how will they know the cancer hasn’t started growing in the last 2 weeks, afterall I hadn’t been for my weekly bloods….  The first scan will only be done after surgery, so much can happen in that time….perhaps risking permanent nerve damage wasn’t such a big thing, perhaps I should have insisted I have the last two…

I had to stop and give myself a stern talking to and not to give in to self doubts.  The alternative was to rush off to the Dent Docs office and beg for my remaining chemo!

I remember very clearly on a visit to the physio all those months ago when my bloods were low and there was a chance of not having chemo the next day, how stressed I was about that.  The physio just smiled and said to me “wait until chemo is over, when that security blanket is ripped away, you may battle with the adjustment”.  I thought to myself WHATEVER, there is no way I am going to be anything than thrilled to have it behind me!  But, I now understand what she meant…

Please sir2

“Maybe we’re not supposed to be happy. Maybe gratitude has nothing to do with joy. Maybe being grateful means recognizing what you have for what it is. Appreciating small victories. Admiring the struggle it takes simply to be human. Maybe we’re thankful for the familiar things we know. And maybe we’re thankful for the things we’ll never know. At the end of the day, the fact that we have the courage to still be standing is reason enough to celebrate.”  Meredith Grey quotes

“When you finally accept that it’s OK not to have answers and it’s OK not to be perfect, you realise that feeling confused is a normal part of what it is to be a human being” Winona Ryder

“Conflict is the beginning of consciousness”. M. Esther Harding

So what’s next?

It’s a surprise that I actually heard anything that the Dent Doc actually said after declaring me a chemo graduate!

While I was still throwing my headscarf up in the air – figuratively speaking of course – (I think it may have been a little more than he could handle  if I literally yanked the scarf off my head in his office – afterall the poor man is already a little sleep deprived with a new baby at home); he reminded me that while this chapter was  officially over, the story was still not done…**spoilsport!**

He had been thinking about my radiation and was convinced that in the best interests of my implants and the reconstructive process still to come, instead of having more intensive radiation over a shorter period, he would prefer a lower dosage over a longer time frame.  This means instead of  3 weeks of 15 sessions of radiation he is proposing 5 weeks of 25 sessions 😦

He felt this would be the “safest” way to cause minimum damage to the implant and hopefully keep it from shrivelling and resulting in less scar tissue over time.  The only real negative would be that my skin would be exposed to a longer radiation period, which could lead to all sorts of unpleasant situations such as peeling and a darkening of the skin.  But that he would also discuss this with my plastic surgeon before making any final decisions.

However, he also let us know that before we start radiation I will need to be sufficiently healed from the implant exchange surgery.  (I have an appointment with my plastic surgeon on the 4th of April to discuss dates of surgery and for her to order the implants).

He told me I would need to have an MRI  after surgery so that he could plot the area for radiation and that I would need to see him every week of radiation so he can check my progress.  After radiation,  I will have another MRI; and after I have stopped “glowing” (he has a wicked sense of humour!) I will start taking Tamoxifen, a hormone blocker, for 5 years.  Thereafter I will see him every 3 months for 2 years, and every 6 months after that.  I will have yearly scans and gynae visits to keep a check the Tamoxifen hasn’t caused things like endometrial cancer (!!!!).

But nothing could dampen our spirits on Friday and he still got the biggest smiles and a volley of thank yous from Pete and I as we left his office!

Pete bought me this charm for my bracelet to celebrate "the end of chemo".  Think he and the Dent Doctor have the same sense of humour.

Pete bought me this charm for my bracelet to celebrate “the end of chemo”. Think he and the Dent Doctor have the same sense of humour.

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” ― David Lloyd George

“In order to move forward, you will have to stumble along the way, but every falter in your stride just makes your next step even stronger.” ― Lindsay Chamberlin

“I suppose whenever you fo through periods of transition, or in a way, it’s a very definite closing of a certain chapter of your life – I suppose those times are always going to be both upsetting and also very exciting by the very nature because things are changing and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”  Daniel Radcliffe

“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one”.  ANON

“Fait is taking the first step even when you don’ see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune”. William James

“There is no one giant step that does it.  It’s a lot of little steps.” Peter A. Cohen

“When you feel that you have reached the end and that you cannot go one step further, when life seems to be drained of all purpose: what a wonderful opportunity to start all over again, to turn over a new page.” Eileen Caddy

An Unexpected Graduation

Today I got some unexpected news…

Pete and I had an 11 am appointment with the Dent Doctor for our scheduled 3 weekly chemo follow up.  This meant I couldn’t have chemo until after we saw him (blood results dependent).  This unfortunately also meant a very long day at the Cancer centre.  Not really a fun way to spend a Friday but considering I had only 2 more chemos to go, I was in a VERY accepting mood!   

The Dent Doctor greeted us with ” can you believe it’s almost over”?  I’m not sure who beamed the brightest, me or Pete!

 He asked how I was doing, was I having any problems…. ?  I told him other than the fact seeing him and having chemo was keeping me from the Oscar trial channel (I am sad to say I am an addict!), I was still feeling quite strong.  I also mentioned I had been having some issues with my fingers and showed him my very sad looking fingernails with their darkened, painful nail beds and how the numbness in my fingers and toes (and even the tip of my tongue) was always worse the day after chemo but that it would improve over the week…  Fingers

My fingers were still feeling rather “tingly”, but it was all okay, I had already pricked them with a pin to make sure I could still feel them!  He got really quiet, started reading through his notes and then abruptly shut my file declaring I was done with chemo!   Whaaat????

“Are you serious? Are you sure?” were the first words out of my mouth!  I was so sure he would suggest that we take a few weeks break from chemo before continuing – this had happened to friend of mine.

He said when the nails show signs of lifting and the numbness started becomming a real problem the risk of permanent damage at my age, was frankly just not worth the two remaining treatments.  I was…. surprised, delighted, thrilled, terrified, thrilled, terrified, thrilled…..did I mention thrilled?!

We still had to discuss the future,  the next step,  the next visit to the plastic surgeon, radiation….WHATEVER…at that moment it all seemed inconsequential and totally do-able!

Pete and I were still in shock when we left his office and we didn’t quite know if we were about to laugh or cry!  

I couldn’t wait to tell the Sisters that I wouldn’t be seeing them for treatment afterall!  There were hugs and well wishes all around!

So as I sit here, on my lazy boy chair- at home rather than at the cancer centre, I’m still taking it all in…. I know there is still quite a journey ahead.  But today I celebrate another graduation, another HUGE milestone and the ending of a tough 5 and a half month long life lesson.

0 chemos to go! 🙂


“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.”  Paulo Coelho

“I thought following a straight road would lead me right to my destination. Like the road would just take me there because I was following all the rules. And if the road curved, I couldn’t be sure about where I was going. But look where it got me. Maybe it’s time for a detour.” Susane Colasanti


From Super She-ro Nerine Swanepoel:
Hey everyone who knows Janine and Pete! I’m walking the Pink Ribbonwalk for Breast Cancer Care… a 10 mile walk, in May, to raise money for breast cancer care, in honour of Janine. If anyone would like to donate to this worthy cause, it wo…uld be greatly appreciated… I know it’s especially tough when converting SA Rands to Pounds but any little bit will hopefully help this cause! If there is anyone in London who knows Janine and would like to join the walk too, you can find out more info and register at you! And keep going, Janine – you’re amazing and we love you! x

NerineThank you Nerine!  “The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain your legacy.” – KN Kalu
Nerine Swanepoel is fundraising on JustGiving for Breast Cancer Care
Help Nerine raise money for this great cause.

You can help Nerine raise money for this great cause by donating directly to their fundraising page –

JustGiving sends your donation straight to Breast Cancer Care and automatically reclaims Gift Aid if you are a UK taxpayer, so your donation is worth even more.

Thank you for your support!