Michelle's Story

Cancer patient’s husband reveals: Look Good Feel Better helped her bounce back to life

They say it takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a community to help a cancer patient.

It can often be just as hard for loved ones to see someone close go through treatment, and they can feel helpless.

So when Michelle Nand came back from a cancer support group a changed woman, her husband Ron breathed a sigh of relief.

“There were times she’d just be sitting there…bawling her eyes out. You'd be helpless, you couldn’t do anything. Coming home from work, she was not doing anything, not wanting to go out, obviously because she was tired,” he reveals.

That was until Michelle attended a free Look Good Feel Better class, an opportunity to be with other people going through cancer. As well as being equipped with hand-selected cosmetics, and the practical tools and tricks to deal with the visible effects of cancer, the group session helped restore her interest in life and boost her confidence to start socialising again.

“I’d spent five months just been hiding home, with no hair, no eyebrows. And I didn't feel confident enough into going out in public.” the project manager says.

“Your body is not the same from the chemo. You have low days, really bad days. You go into a really dark place and you start thinking about the negative things.

“I needed to do Look Good Feel Better. I went with my wig on, when we were doing the makeup I took it off. I didn't care who was looking at me, because we were all in the same boat. It's not about just hair and makeup – it's about connecting with other people who are struggling and going through the same journey as you are,” the 40 year old reveals.

The change in Michelle is palpable.

Ron says: “She bounced back to life, bit more lively, more smiles, bit more chatty, back to her usual self. She's wanting to go out. So it helped both of us.”

The Look Good Feel Better sessions are for anyone with any type of cancer at any stage of treatment. Michelle attended just after finishing chemo and radiation treatment.

“When I first found out about my breast cancer, it was very emotional. I just couldn't understand what was going on when I heard the word cancer. It was like my whole life, just turned upside down.

The first thing that came to me was, ‘was I gonna die’. But I was lucky. I was treated quite fast. But the gruelling side effects of treatment made Michelle withdraw, and she became isolated.

“The class taught me how something as simple as cutting up a tee-shirt to create a soft head scarf was helpful. When you wear your wig, sometimes it's too hot and itchy and tight – that was a big highlight for me learning how you can wear your tee-shirt in a fashionable way.

“It is a really good programme and I would encourage anybody to attend it if they are going through their cancer journey.

“Cancer doesn’t mean you have to just stay home and cry like I used to do. You can enjoy life. There are ways to look better and go and enjoy dinner with your family, going to the mall or the movies.”

Michelle believes it has helped her be as positive as her teenage son.

“He's 13 years old. He knows I'm sick, but he's very positive, He said ‘Mum 75 percent of people survive it and I know you will survive. We will get old together.’

“Meeting those other ladies and how positive they were that just lifted me up in a really good way. And you look at their spirit and it gives you confidence that ‘if she can do it, why can't I do it?’

It just takes you to a different level, like from feeling yucky & down, and then being confident and going out into the public It encouraged me to go out more. I think I'm at a much better place.”

Dry July NZ Trust