Elaine - How eyebrows help me face my cancer journey
Mum-of-two Elaine Kuri’s world changed in a day when a check up for a sore muscle was diagnosed as stage 3 breast cancer, and further tests revealed stage 3 lymph node cancer too.
Quickly this successful businesswoman’s life went from senior exec meetings to hospital appointments, and the once vibrant manager became a cancer patient who was merely existing.
“I had to shave off my long hair, so I didn’t even look like me anymore. The Look Good Feel Better workshop gave me my confidence and independence back,” the 44 year old says.
“Being able to now draw my eyebrows and feel confident and have a smile on my face again – even though I was going through crap - made such a big difference.
“I might be feeling really horrible inside and I have got another chemo session and I visualise all of the side effects I am going to go through for the next few days, and the thought that I might be in hospital again.
“But just putting on that make up – I can smile again and look at myself in the mirror and say ‘you know, it’s ok, I can get through this’. I have some control back, I have a choice.”
The class was an appointment she looked forward to, one that wasn’t yet another medical treatment or check up. And, very soon into the class, Elaine says, there was a palpable shift with the women initially sharing details of their cancer, and treatment. Then as they had their make up applied the conversation turned to how nice they looked, and admiring the colours in the make up.
“Suddenly the conversation was normal conversation, we were normal women even though we had the bond of cancer.
“Thank you Look Good Feel Better, you helped me find me again.”
Waiora - Facing the future with confidence
Waiora has had surgery to remove basal cell carcinoma, skin cancer, from her face three times - and she lives with the worry that the operations may not be her last.
Grandmother to three girls, Waiora resides in an eco village in Ranui, and attended a West Auckland Look Good Feel Better class. She wanted to learn how to disguise her misshapen lip, the legacy of having had three cancerous lumps removed in eight years.
“To others it wasn’t discernible, but it was to me. And the class was so humbling. I went back to work and I said “I feel like such a fraud. I have only had this”.
“I was in a class where women didn’t have their hair, they didn’t have a breast, they were going through chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
“I learnt how to subtly apply products and then when I looked in the mirror I just thought ‘wow’. I thought I looked really great.
“At nearly age 60 it has made such a huge difference in my life. As someone who has had cancer, who thinks that cancer may return again, just looking and feeling the best that I can makes such a huge difference.
“When you feel better, it just radiates from your face and you have a tingle in your toes.”
Waiora, who spent most of her life in Whangarei and Hokianga, had wanted a tu moko on her mouth and chin, to acknowledge her heritage, but she now wants to leave her face clear so she can watch for any changes.
“I don’t think I will do that any more”, let’s leave things as they are.”
Emotional healing - 'feeling better' is as important as cancer treatments
Shona wasn’t sure she should attend a Look Good Feel Better class. She had undergone gruelling cancer treatment but to the outside world looked well. So it was with trepidation that she went.
“Physically I was starting to feel a lot better but emotionally I would say that I was at my lowest point. So the class for me was not necessarily to make me look better. For me it was more about feeling better,” the 36 year old says.
It will be two years ago in July that Shona was diagnosed with stage 2b cervical cancer. She endured five rounds of chemotherapy, 25 fractions of external radiation and then internal radiation.
“I was lucky enough to not lose my hair or my eyebrows and, so in some ways I wondered if I should actually go to the class. It wasn’t until I turned up and I met all the other cancer patients that I felt like I was actually entitled to be there. I felt I was with like-minded people. It was a really nice, kind, caring, comfortable environment. It was just time out that you don’t always give yourself.
“it was a couple of hours where it was all about me and someone was pampering me and it was a really beautiful lovely kind of feeling. it wasn’t the only thing that helped me to feel better but I think it was a step in the process for me.
“A lot of my disease felt really invisible. It’s all inside, you can’t see any of that. The majority of what you go through is hospital based. You, at times, can feel like a bit of a number, not a person. Going to that class made me feel less invisible. And that was a huge thing for me because you become more real again and you feel really cared for.
“It was a real positive day – you’re surrounded by so much love and care and support. I am very glad I did it. It helped the emotional healing.”
Men's Facilitator Workshop 2018
Look Good Feel Better NZ secured a Dry July grant in 2017 towards running a facilitator training workshop for the Men's Programme (which is also funded by Dry July). The aim was to help educate Facilitators about the Programme, ultimately offering better access to the new LGFB Men's programme across NZ centres for any man, diagnosed with any cancer. Now, all Men's Programme participants will have access to a fully trained, knowledgable, empathetic Facilitator and a consistent programme no matter where in the country they are living or being treated for cancer.
Images from the workshop can be seen here: https://quik.gopro.com/v/F82mvHlaXy/.
Cancer and Blood Welcome Video
Auckland DHB used funds from Dry July 2016 towards a Cancer and Blood Welcome video designed to give patients and their families peace of mind.
The film takes viewers on a tour of facilities by staff, who answer frequently asked questions by patients about to start medical oncology (including chemotherapy), radiation oncology (including radiation therapy)or haematology services. Patient interviews are also included.
Since 30 January 2018, the video has been featured on the Auckland DHB vimeo channel as well as the following Healthpoint pages:
Auckland DHB Oncology Services
Auckland DHB Radiation Therapy
Auckland DHB Clinical Haematology
All pages have been optimised for search to ensure that ADHB is able to reach as many people as possible who are looking for more information about the services provided.
These three Healthpoint pages receive on average 1000 visits per month (cumulative) by members of the public, and the video is the first thing that visitors see when coming to any of these pages.
The Auckland DHB video link has been viewed more than 180 times since it was published.