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Fashion and Feeling Good about Your Body after Chemotherapy

Treatment for mesothelioma and other cancers can leave you feeling exhausted. Draining your energy, treatment can leave you struggling to do simple tasks like putting on makeup, tidying the house, or fixing your hair. Also, treatment changes your body, especially after chemotherapy, leaving you looking and feeling different.

One of the biggest side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. It can be difficult for both men and women to regain their self-image after cancer treatment. However, with the right fashion choices and the proper care products you can regain your confidence.

How Chemotherapy Changes Your Body

Chemotherapy can save your life. It shrinks tumors and slows their growth, keeping cancer in check. Even when not curative, chemotherapy can extend a patient’s life. With mesothelioma, most patients can expect some benefits from undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

While helpful in many ways, chemotherapy damages the body. Chemotherapy drugs toxic to cells that grow and divide rapidly. This includes healthy cells as well as cancer cells. Because chemotherapy doesn’t differentiate between cancer and healthy cells, it often leads to side effects like hair loss. Chemotherapy may also cause other changes like weight gain or weight loss, changes in skin color, rashes, peeling skin on the hands or feet, and nail damage and discoloration.

Wigs and Scarves for Hair Loss

For many people, losing hair is the most obvious effect of chemotherapy and one of the most difficult to cope with. However, many patients choose to see hair loss as an opportunity to play with fashion and style. High-quality wigs are available for cancer patients experience extreme hair loss. Scarves are another option, and one that yields hundreds of fashion opportunities. Choosing a new hairstyle, styling wigs, using multiple wigs, and using scarves can all help you regain control of your appearance after cancer treatment.

Most insurance plans will cover the cost of one wig. However, it can be fun to have more than one, allowing you to change your appearance almost daily. Women who have gone through chemotherapy often donate their wigs so other women can get them for free. Support groups may also have wig exchanges. These events promote camaraderie with other women. The American Cancer Society also has a program that offers men and women one free scarf or wig.

For scarves, hats, and other head coverings, the options are nearly unlimited. You can find them through any company that sells hats and scarves. However, there are also brands just for cancer patients. These companies provide attractive coverings that are comfortable and soft to avoid irritating sensitive skin. They also offer products for men, a population often left out of the cancer hair loss discussion.

Beauty Tips for Cancer Patients

Besides losing hair on your head, cancer patients also lose their eyebrows and eyelashes. Their nails and skin change, too. A professional makeup artist or ten-minute YouTube tutorial can teach you how to draw new eyebrows with a simple makeup kit. For fingernails, some women use nail polish to cover up damage and discoloration. You should avoid the manicurist, however, unless he or she has experience working with chemotherapy patients. Also, look for nail polish that is free of toluene, formaldehyde, and other harsh chemicals.

For cancer patients suffering with skin issues, moisturizers and lotions can restore skin softness without causing further irritation. Look for products without fragrance, alcohol, sulfates, and exfoliants, as these can irritate skin. Natural makeups, like mineral powder makeup, can help you cover up skin discoloration caused by chemotherapy. Again, avoid harsh chemicals, especially makeup with added fragrance.

Fitness, Diet, and Weight

Many chemotherapy patients will lose or gain weight, which can often be a blow to a person’s self-esteem. Cancer patients should add physical fitness to their routines, helping mitigate these changes. Check with your medical team first, and be sure to choose activities reasonable for your energy level. Gentle exercises like walking or yoga are great options.

You may also want to work with a nutritionist to make sure you eat a balanced diet. A healthy diet can keep your overall health and strength up, while also helping maintain healthy weight. Eating well and exercising make you healthier, but also boost mood and improve body image.

The Fashion Industry Takes Notice

Women and men undergoing chemotherapy often try to blend in, hiding hair loss and other appearance changes. However, more are embracing their new bodies and new looks, and fashion is taking notice. Legendary fashion magazine Vogue featured a photo series on women cancer patients who embraced the fashion and style opportunities of hair loss. The pictures show how these cancer survivors used wigs, scarves, and other accessories to have fun with their look.

Iconic New York Fashion Week has also gotten involved in the movement, helping men and women feel good about themselves while fighting cancer. The world-renowned fashion show hosted an event for women, and one brave man, to walk the runway after being outfitted in glamorous outfits, wigs, makeup, and expensive jewelry. The Saturday night event gave cancer patients the chance to feel beautiful and escape the normal routine of chemotherapy.

Body changes brought on by chemotherapy are not always easy to live with. However, there are ways to embrace them. Whether you use fashion and beauty to help hide the effects of cancer treatment or to help you stand out, embracing style and fashion can be a positive way to cope with changes brought on by cancer treatment.

Page Edited by Dave Foster

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Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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