Having a day for me, when everything else was about cancer
Geneva Wilson is signing up for Dry July this year. She would have done it last year, but for a shock diagnosis of breast cancer that saw July absorbed in medical appointments, fast-tracked surgery, fertility treatment and chemotherapy.
July was the month that turned the then 24-year-old’s life upside down, and a year on she is still on her cancer journey as her final surgery has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I found a lump and was sent for an urgent scan. I had a double mastectomy two weeks after I was diagnosed and went through fertility treatment to harvest eggs before surgery for expandable implants. Then I started chemo – because I had the mastectomy, I didn’t have to have radiation.”
Having been recommended a Look Good Feel Better class by two of her medical team, Geneva booked well in advance – timing it for mid-way through her chemotherapy when she anticipated she would have lost her hair.
Free to anyone with any cancer at any treatment stage, the classes help give people confidence to cope with the impact of their cancer treatment, providing tips and tricks to help with the visible side effects as well as dealing with the feeling of isolation and a loss of normality.
“I wanted to plan something nice for when I wasn’t going to be feeling so great,” Geneva says.
“Generally I am pretty positive about it all. But there are hard days. When you are going through cancer everything kinda sucks. Every day is a struggle.
It's common that chemotherapy patients struggle to come to terms with hair loss but Geneva surprised herself by being comfortable without head coverings.
"I rocked up wearing a cap then whipped it off and I was told that helped to inspire others to accept and embrace the change for themselves."
Not all of those who attend have lost their hair, some continue to work, and others have been forced to give up work or study, including Geneva.
“I am studying psychology – I was on my last semester of my three-year degree and I had been offered a post-grad. I am now waiting to get back into it and have been a bit disheartened.
“I could see the finish line. My final surgery has been delayed because of Covid.”
There have been many good days during her treatment, including her partner giving her a puppy for companionship and distraction, and a highlight is the Look Good Feel Better class.
“I recommend it for everyone. It really is good to engage with other people who know what you are going through.
“I loved feeling pampered and getting my make-up done – having a day for me when everything else was about cancer. It’s just an escape from reality, a little retreat for the day.”