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Fashion and Feeling Good about Your Body after Chemotherapy

Treatment for mesothelioma and other types of cancer drains and exhausts you. It will sap your energy and leave you struggling to do normal things, like putting on makeup, picking out clothes, or doing your hair. Your body changes during cancer treatment, especially after chemotherapy, so you look and feel different.

Chemotherapy often causes hair loss, one of the biggest side effects that women and men grapple with during and after treatment. There are other side effects too. It can be difficult to regain control of your appearance and how you feel about yourself, but with fashion, self-expression, and products designed specifically for cancer patients, you can do it.

How Chemotherapy Changes Your Body

Chemotherapy can save your life. It can shrink tumors and slow their growth, slowing or stopping the progression of cancer. Even when it is not curative, chemotherapy can extend a patient’s life. For mesothelioma, most patients can expect to see at least some benefit and extended life from undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

While helpful in so many ways, chemotherapy damages to the body. The drugs used are toxic to all cells that grow and divide rapidly, which includes cancer cells and many types of healthy cells. So treatment causes many side effects like hair loss. Chemotherapy may 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 and shocking effect of chemotherapy and therefore one of the most difficult changes to cope with. A great way to overcome negative feelings about hair loss is to embrace it as a chance to play with fashion and style. High-quality wigs are available, as are many different scarves, which can be styled in many ways. Choosing a new hairstyle, styling wigs, using multiple wigs, and using scarves can all help you take back control of your appearance after cancer treatment has left you feeling unlike yourself.

Most insurance plans will cover the cost of one wig, but it can be fun to have more than one and to change your appearance on different days. Women who have gone through chemotherapy often donate their wigs so that other women can get them for free. Support groups may also have wig exchanges, sharing and enjoying the camaraderie with other women. The American Cancer Society has a program through which men and women can get one free scarf or wig.

For scarves, hats, and other types of head coverings, the options are nearly unlimited. You can find what you need through any company that sells hats and scarves, but 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 often make products for men, who have sometimes been left out of the cancer hair loss discussion.

Beauty Tips for Cancer Patients

Besides losing hair atop the head, people also lose their eyebrows and eyelashes. Their nails and skin change, too. A professional makeup artist or a ten-minute YouTube tutorial can teach you how to draw new eyebrows with a makeup kit. For their fingers, some women use nail polish to cover up damage and discoloration. Do not go to just any manicurist, though, unless he or she has experience working with chemotherapy patients. Be sure to look for nail polish that is free of toluene, formaldehyde, and other harsh chemicals.

Moisturizers and lotions can restore some skin softness without irritating it further. Look for products without fragrance, alcohol, sulfates, and exfoliants, as all of these can irritate skin. Natural makeups, like mineral powder makeup, can help you cover up any skin discoloration caused by chemotherapy. Again, avoid harsh chemicals, especially makeup with fragrance added.

Fitness, Diet, and Weight

Many chemotherapy patients will lose or gain weight, a body change that can hurt self-esteem. Cancer patients can and should add physical fitness to their routines to mitigate these changes. Just check with your medical team first and choose activities that are 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 well. A healthy diet can keep your overall health and strength up, while also helping you maintain healthy weight. Eating well and exercising make you healthier, and will also boost your mood and help you feel better about your changing body.

The Fashion Industry Takes Notice

Women and men going through chemotherapy have long tried to blend in and hide their hair loss and other appearance changes. Now, more are embracing their new bodies and new looks, and fashion is taking notice. Legendary fashion magazine Vogue even ran a photo series on women who had been through cancer treatment and 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 transforming their looks.

Iconic New York Fashion Week has also gotten involved in the movement to help 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, full on makeup and expensive jewelry. The Saturday night event gave cancer patients the chance to feel beautiful and to escape the normal routine of chemotherapy.

Changes to your body as you go through chemotherapy are not easy to see or to live with, but there are ways you can accept and 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 the 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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