For many women suffering from cancer, self-confidence and self-esteem are at an all-time low. It is not uncommon for women to look in the mirror and find fault with the reflection staring back at them, but women who have cancer also have to deal with debilitating side effects as a result of their treatment, which can drastically change their appearance and body image.
“Cancer may sap a woman of her energy, appetite and strength but it needn’t take away her self confidence,” asserts Louis Joubert, hospital manager at Netcare St Anne’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. “At Netcare St Anne’s, we know that the side effects associated with cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can be particularly distressing for women who often feel alienated and despondent as a result of their illness. That’s why we decided to partner with the ‘Look Good … Feel Better’ programme to give women who are undergoing cancer treatment the opportunity to feel better about themselves through beauty workshops specifically designed to boost their morale and lift their spirits,” he says.
According to Loren Maguire, the Pietermaritzburg branch coordinator of the ‘Look Good … Feel Better’ programme, “specially trained beauty professionals volunteer their time to guide patients through a 12-step skincare and make-up regime that assists these women in managing the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.” These side effects include hair loss as well as a loss of eyebrows and eyelashes, pale or sallow complexion, uneven skin pigmentation, dry and sensitive skin, puffiness around the eyes and brittle and discoloured nails. “The programme is non-medical and does not interfere with medical treatment,” she says.
Up to 25 000 female cancer patients have attended a ‘Look Good…Feel Better’ workshop at one of 38 venues in seven major cities in South Africa since the inception of the programme in 2005. Netcare St Anne’s Hospital is one of the latest hospitals to adopt the programme.
Sue Auchincloss is one such patient who was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago and has had first-hand experience of the harsh side-effects associated with cancer treatment. “Aside from not feeling well, I also lost all my hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes. Wigs and scarves may help you cover up hair loss on the head but you cannot hide the fact that you have no eyebrows or eyelashes. That is why the programme is so wonderful because it teaches women how to deal with these side effects,” she says.
According to Auchincloss, one of the best parts of the programme is the sense of sisterhood and camaraderie experienced between the women who attend the workshops. “Women not only learn valuable beauty techniques to help them feel beautiful again but they also get to share personal experiences and tips that could help other women to manage their disease and cope with side effects,” she says. “This programme is truly life-changing and I encourage all women who are receiving cancer treatment to attend a workshop and see for themselves what a difference it can make to their lives,” she says.
The introduction of this programme at Netcare St Anne’s Hospital coincides with the R125 million expansion project currently underway at the facility which last year celebrated its 175th anniversary. As part of the hospital’s expansion plan, a number of upgrades are being done to enhance the services offered to the community. Part of this project includes an upgrade to the oncology unit where 35 dedicated oncology beds have already been added. “We also aim to open the high-care part of the oncology unit by August this year. Upgrades to the theatre complex, emergency unit, cardiac critical care unit and maternity unit are also well underway,” explains Joubert.
“Netcare St Anne’s Hospital is committed to providing support, empathy and comfort to patients going through traumatic experiences. Encouraging patients to attend workshops such as the ‘Look Good … Feel Better’ programme is just one of the ways we aim to achieve this,” says Joubert.
Netcare St Anne’s will be hosting ‘Look Good … Feel Better’ workshops every month. The next workshop will take place on Friday, 25 April. The workshops are free to all patients undergoing cancer treatment. For more information or to make a booking kindly contact Sharona Singh on 033 342 3456 or 033 897 5052.
Issued by : Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare St Anne’s
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Sarah Beswick or Jillian Penaluna
Telephone : (011) 469 3016
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