By the nature of its side effects, cancer treatment can make a private battle a very public affair. For a woman with cancer, having a bald head, pale skin or a missing breast can make her feel like she's being targeted by a bright spotlight and a banner that says, "Cancer patient."
But now more than ever, there are resources for women that will put the spotlight back on their work, their accomplishments and their life—and change that banner to simply read, "Woman."
Here are a few local resources that specialize in helping women with cancer:
- In partnership with the American Cancer Society, Edward Plainfield Cancer Center operates a wig boutique, open to all cancer patients in the region. The center serves the southwest and far south suburbs of Chicago, including communities in DuPage, Will, Kendall, LaSalle, Grundy and Kankakee Counties. The facility also offers the free Look Good . . . Feel Better program, designed for women who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy to help restore their appearance and self-image during treatment. American Cancer Society-trained cosmetologists lead the group through practical hands-on demonstrations. Participants will learn about makeup techniques, skin and nail care, and options related to hair loss such as wigs, hats, scarves, and other accessories to manage changes in appearance that result from treatment. The program meets from 3 to 5 p.m. the second Monday of each month, at 24600 W. 127th St., in Conference Room A. Call (815) 731-3434 for more information.
- Oswego Massage and Rehab, 73 W. Van Buren St., Oswego, offers oncology massage. Click here for more information.
- Rush-Copley offers Cancer Care Yoga for the student in any stage of cancer treatment. A safe and nurturing environment will be provided with breathing, relaxation, creating strength and balance. Poses will be modified as needed by students. View the class schedule here.
Girl on the Go provides private or in-home wig consultations for women with cancer, with locations in 12 states, including Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Breast cancer survivor Sheril Cohen started the business after her own struggles with hair loss that were matched only by the frustrating process of getting a wig.
"Wig shopping was awful," Cohen shares on her website. "[The attendant] tried to sell me this wig. I thought it was a cute cut, but I thought it made me older and unattractive. I cried. I felt sexy with my long hair. With this wig on I felt like a suburban fortysomething-year-old soccer mom. I was successful, single, a thirtysomething NYC woman. I wanted to retain me—not become someone I did not recognize."
Now Cohen proudly sells wigs of all kinds—synthetic, hybrid, human hair—to women all over the country, providing, as one of her clients says, privacy.
"I felt so like myself in my wig," said Ellen, a client. "No one knew. People who knew I had been diagnosed but did not know much else used to come up to me at events and ask when I was going to start chemo or if I had chosen a doctor yet. I did not have to tell anyone anything I did not want to tell them."
As women in chemotherapy treatment discover, hair loss isn't limited to their locks. It means no eyebrows, no eyelashes and, as Cohen points out, one bright spot—no shaving.
Women can visit a lash studio to get back that feminine flutter of the lashes, and maybe even amp up their look with a few sexy, extra-long lash extensions.
There also resources online for women who have had surgery during treatment. KA Mastectomy Bras and Apparel, started by survivor Kimberly Ashmand, features pretty and practical bras tailored to the unique needs of survivors, as well as some with a little lace and sparkle to help women feel sexy again.
Adopting a new look during treatment is about more than simply feeling good for the moment—it can be another weapon in a woman's arsenal against cancer, giving her a deep well of positivity to sustain her.
TELL US: We want to know what matters most to you, whether it's lashes, lipstick or lingerie. Share in the comments section below what aspects of a makeover makes you feel the most beautiful.