Wednesday, 29 July 2009
To Harley Street for a make-up workshop. The cosmetics industry has its own cancer charity Look Good, Feel Better. I’m sure that some Fleet Street whizz kid could come up with a snappier title but their intentions are honourable: to give women the wherewithal to look good and hence feel better even though their hair has fallen out, their skin is dry, their nails are brittle, they have acne and they feel sick all the time.
Anne at the Macmillan Centre booked me in a few weeks ago. At the time I hadn’t yet come to appreciate how important the timing of everything is in relation to one’s chemo cycle. It is fortunate that this has worked out well. My next chemo session is tomorrow which means that this is the last day of the cycle. So I feel quite chipper today. A make-up workshop is just what I need to pick me up after this week’s horrible hair trauma.
I am shown into a smart room where a gang of women in varying stages of baldness are seated around a polished mahogany boardroom table. One could be forgiven for assuming that the Addams Family have taken over the management of the HCA Hospital Group.
Helpful assistants show me to my seat at the table and provide me with a sticky name tag and a cup of tea. Conversation around the table is desultory. I get the feeling that most of the women here are not overbrimming with self-confidence. In fact, it is quite possible that they feel ashamed of looking the way they do. I know that I have those feelings. And that’s why we are here.
After attempting to strike up chats with the ladies opposite I busy myself by fiddling with the cotton buds and lip brushes that are laid out in front of us. We are each given a very large goodie bag and admonished not to open it yet. But some of the ladies simply cannot wait.
Stephan bustles in, an immaculately groomed gentleman of a certain age. He is the workshop leader-du-jour. His model arrives. She is pretty with smooth skin. I judge her to be in her late twenties. I guess that she has cancer too. Stephan has a good line in patter and begins to put everyone at ease. I feel the atmosphere in the room relax a notch.
Beginning with cleansing and toning Stephan takes us through the Look Good, Feel Better 12 Step Programme. It is a concept that is strangely familiar to me. Pretty soon we are all laughing and chatting and ripping the cellophane off our free beauty products. I may not necessarily agree with all of Stephan’s methods (too much blusher!) but that is hardly the point. Look Good, Feel Better is about giving women a lift in their darkest days. I leave the building smiling and feeling immensely cheered up.
Things I got for free today:
L’Oreal Re Nourish Cleansing Milk
L’Oreal Re Nourish Velvety Toner
Garnier Clean & Fresh eye make-up remover
Vichy Thermal Fix UV moisturiser
Lancôme Hydra Zen Yeux eye contour gel (always welcome)
No 7 Colour Calming make-up base (the green stuff)
Rimmel Hide the Blemish concealer
L’Oreal Age Re Perfect Vita Collagen foundation (great! I’ve nearly run out of my MAC foundation)
No 7 Perfect Light translucent loose powder
L’Oreal Brow & Duo Eyeshadow (really useful)
Clinique Colour Surge eyeshadow duo
Max Factor Flawless Perfection blush
Yves Saint Laurent Dessin Des Lèvres Lip Liner (I was wanting one of these)
Max Factor Modernist Pink lipstick
Chanel Sensation lipstick
Cover Girl Lash Exact mascara
Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely Eau de Parfum shimmer spray (will make an excellent prize for my charity tombola)
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Monday, 27 July 2009
My hair is awful. I look like I’ve just escaped from Abu Ghraib prison. It will all have to go now. I call my hairdresser. “This is Kell Skott Salon. We are closed for essential maintenance work today. The salon will re-open tomorrow. Please leave a message.”
The one day of my life that I have a genuine hairdressing emergency turns out to be the one day of the year that my hairdresser’s has a refit.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
I’m meeting Iris to see ‘Coco Before Chanel’ at the Electric Cinema. I arrive a bit early and notice that Appletree is open. This shop is a little treasure trove of quirky, funky and inexpensive dresses, bags, belts, brollies and hats. I slip in to see if they have any affordably fabulous headgear. They do – lovely crocheted cotton cloches for £12 each. I take three: one in olive green, one in cornflower blue and one in sunflower yellow.
Iris catches me coming out of the shop. I confess to her about this morning’s big hair fallout. For some reason it feels like a horrible secret. Iris looks at me with genuine sympathy. “That’s just crap” she says.
My head was so itchy this morning I decided to wash my hair. I lathered it up and as I rinsed it through, it all just started to come away in big clumps. So there I was, sitting in the bath with half my hair in my hands, like a mop.
Nothing anyone said could have prepared me for that.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
My cousin Gaby had / has (I’m not sure of the correct tense in this case) a good friend, Marianne. Marianne’s mother and sister both died from cancer. Marianne nursed each of them in turn. When Gaby fell ill, Marianne flew from America to nurse her too. Marianne was with Gaby on the day she died.
I saw Marianne at Gaby’s memorial service only six weeks ago. I was wearing a vintage 1970’s pendant in the shape of an owl. Marianne remarked on the pendant: “That’s great. My grandmother used to wear jewellery like that. She left me some pieces in her will.”
This morning a package arrived from the USA. Inside were two of Marianne’s grandmother’s pendants, one in the shape of an owl and the other in the shape of a tortoise.