What do you look like when you have cancer?

Do your looks change?  How long does it take to get back to the “old” you?

Many times before a patient hears “You have cancer,” family or friends see a change in their loved one.  A sudden change in weight can occur.  Sometimes skin tone becomes grayish, or a little yellow.  If you spend a lot of time around someone, you notice their appetite has changed too.  Sleep habits can be disrupted and then, there are the  night sweats.  These are all red flags we sometimes notice and sometimes we don’t.

Once the diagnosis is made, that’s when the questions come: “Will my hair fall out?”  “Will my skin change?”  “Will my fingernails fall off?”  “What’s neuropathy? ”  “How bad are the side effects?”

Cancer is an image changer.  And it’s just as important to take care of the outside of you, as it is the inside.

I’ll call her Maryann.  She’s an image saver.  She has an image salon at the cancer center.

This is her lab.  She works miracles in her lab.  She stocks potions for your skin.  She can soothe away harsh radiation treatments with creams made especially for that side effect.  She has lotions for your feet and hands that will soften and at the same time keep the skin from peeling.

She has bottles and tubes filled with potions poised to tackle chemotherapy side effects too. There’s special make-up and hats and scarves  and even “Cancer Sucks” bracelets.

Maryann’s touch is probably the most important ingredient in the salon.  It comes naturally to her.  I’ve seen her shave the head of a cancer patient riddled with anxiety over the unknown of the journey ahead.  Her calming conversation absorbs the hum of the shaver and before they know it, the patient is looking in the mirror, wearing a wig that has restored their image to the BC  (before cancer) stage of their lives.

This gift goes way beyond oncology.  This is the human side of cancer care.

Maryann is an “image-shifter,” a secret weapon at the cancer center.

She restores images: something cancer tries so hard to destroy.

 

 

 

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