Look good, feel better? Not so much.

Today I went to the Cancer Center to participate in the Look Good, Feel Better program. First, let me start by praising the program and the volunteers.  The volunteers give freely and generously of their time and were so friendly and upbeat.  They gave skin care and make up demonstrations.  (Apparently I have been doing it wrong for 35 + years). They even cut and styled two wigs.  We all left with make up and skin care products worth well over $200.00, donated by top brands. So what’s the problem you ask?  I went into this feeling pretty good.  When I looked around my heart kind of sank. Many of the other women looked like.. well… cancer patients.  Maybe I’m delusional and I do, too, but I really don’t think so.  And then, as women do, everyone started chatting.  There were the usual pleasantries, but a lot of talk of diagnoses, treatment and prognosis.  Not much of it was very positive. One lady asked me how I dealt with depression and I answered honestly that I haven’t experienced any (yet?).  She looked kind of skeptical.   Before we left one woman asked if I attended the support groups at the center.  They are held one Wednesday evening a month and I had thought about maybe going in the spring.  I’m not fond of driving all that way in the winter, at night.  Now, I’m rethinking that. Maybe I’m the world’s most selfish breast cancer patient but if today was any indication of what those meetings would be like, I cannot see myself voluntarily sitting through them.  I just can’t surround myself with cancer and sadness, depression and anger.  I was told if I ever have blood drawn or go to the ER to be sure to identify myself as a cancer patient and I kind of bristled at that.  Yes. I have cancer. I also have green eyes, a tendency to migraines and an irreverent sense of humor. None of those things on their own define me.  I refuse to be defined by a temporary medical condition and I don’t want to be around people who define themselves that way.  On the other hand.. as soon as I started this blog, I immediately searched for other blogs about breast cancer, chemotherapy, women with cancer.. and I follow several.  Not all are cheerful every day, but all make me smile or comment. Most of the bloggers that I follow are hopeful and see the humor in the same things I do.  Some are very spiritual and I find comfort in reading their words.  Some are brutally honest about not so great medical results, but not one has ever left me feeling so dark and sad as that meeting today. I can’t explain it but then I’ve never claimed to make sense.

I don’t know what I expected to get out of today. It seemed kind of rude to turn down such a generous offer and I thought it might be fun. Some of it was, but I left carrying the little red makeup bag that identified me as a cancer patient in case anyone needed clarification, a headache and a lump in my throat. And my wig was choking me.

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17 comments

  1. Herdy · January 30, 2012

    I love your positivity, like me, you seem determined to live life no matter what the disease or the treatment throws in your direction. Seeing so much suffering in one room is bound to be difficult, and not everyone deals with it in the same way. I would put it down to experience, take the free make-up and perhaps avoid that kind of thing in future. Much love xx

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  2. Misifusa · January 30, 2012

    Herdy said it great…she is right. As for support groups, you have to find the one that is right for you ~ one with positivity. I am glad you got the wigs, I am glad you got the makeup and I am glad you see how fortunate you are…part of the healing is your attitude. I love your blog.

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  3. Carina · January 30, 2012

    I’ve gone to one support group and I glad I did. At least one person is close to my age. I’ve been to a few classes–yoga, wellness, Look Good…and for some reason I feel left out. Although most seem friendly, they seem to be much older, and/or look very sick. There is still some denial left in me but I refused to look sick and I fight not to feel sick. It is hard to explain.
    Stay positive and strong.

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  4. Rhana Pytell · January 30, 2012

    Thank you for your honesty and determination. A post by Nancy Amorosi on being with her daughter fighting BC concluded with: “No longer sweating the small stuff, living each day and not allowing the “what if” of tomorrow to ruin today became a new way of life.”

    I have a self-care and healing journal process that is free and available at http://www.cayaviv.com Would love your thoughts on it if you have time to take a look.

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  5. Susan · January 31, 2012

    I love your blog and you are such an inspiration to me. I do try to stay positive but have my down moments. I also went to a group like this. Everyone kept to themselves and nobody spoke to each other although I did try and reach out nobody seemed to want to. I really do not understand this attitude. We are all in this together and maybe sharing and caring for each other would make such a difference. Thank goodness for this blog and all the others that I follow, I love each and every one.

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  6. suzeq740 · January 31, 2012

    I love your blog also, your humor for sure.. and your honesty 🙂 I had to smile as I can relate to sitting in meetings like that. I have not been to a “Look Good Feel Better” class yet. They have one the 13th of Feb here but as of now I will be working night before and night of so I doubt I get to go. I have been in other “support” meetings however and seen and FELT that negativity flow through the room.. that in itself IS depressing. You will know what is right for you. I know when I made the choice to attend such meetings I had to look at it this way… ” what can I bring to the people that are there?” In other words maybe some of that positivity will rub off, or maybe , just maybe you will make one of them smile 🙂 Whatever you do, keep blogging sista!

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  7. mainelyhopeful · January 31, 2012

    Thanks everyone. I read and enjoy your blogs too. We can be our own little support group 🙂

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    • loopynutter · February 1, 2012

      Definitely!,, your blog is fantastic and an inspiration to me… Just so you know I’m smiling and I’m just like you… Cancer smancher!,, it can just pack it’s bags and get on its merry way thanks we are not having it! Xx

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  8. Cindy's Cancers · February 1, 2012

    I’ve never been to one because I think they might toss me out for being happy. I’m certainly not happy to have cancer and all the lovely things that come along with it but I still want to be me and me isn’t good with self pity. I think some people think that because they feel so terrible that they are supposed to share that with everyone else. I don’t think that way at all. I do feel very bad for people who are miserable all the time and I know it’s probably because they don’t feel well, but I want to hold others up not bring them down. Just keep doing things how you have been, it wasn’t you with the problem it was them. You are my support group, and a good one at that!
    cin

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  9. eddiesandcurrents · February 3, 2012

    I haven’t been to any breast cancer events or support groups through my treatment path. I did look to see when a nearby support group met, but at that time, I’d just missed a meeting, and I’d forgotten by the next one. Something in me doesn’t want to go, so I haven’t. I blogged about my intuition’s knowing that I had cancer – on some deep level – so I’m trusting it when it tells me that a breast cancer support group isn’t what I need. From the few cancer survivors I’ve talked with, I can see that I have a pretty different approach to this journey than the majority of them did. I have lots of support from friends and family and my community. Some people need to be able to talk with others who are going through the same things, but I don’t, at least not now. I think everyone knows what she needs, and each path is right for the person who chooses it.

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  10. The Savvy Sister · February 7, 2012

    Support groups are not for everyone…it has to fit. Most of the women there don’t have anyone to talk to and some of them were depressed before they were diagnosed. I went once, and like you, was just depressed. Online you can get the doses you need when you need it and if you don’t like what someone’s got…unsubscribe.

    About that “Look good feel better” program……I am trying to convince the American Cancer Assn to stop giving out cosmetics with known cancer causing chemicals in them. Just curious what came in your goodie bag….

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  11. Laura Renegar · February 12, 2012

    Look Good Feel Better is a great program run by the American Cancer Society- but as in any group you go to, containg breast cancer patients, you will find the whoa is me group and the helpful hinters and the positive “numb – I haven’t even begun to deal with this yet”…it is a long process, just like a grieving process, with many layers of skin to peel off just like an onion. I am one year out from my diagnosis (almost) and I am still learning and discovering ways to handling different aspects of this disease, my diagnosis, and my future. The woman who said tell them you are a cancer patient was correct in that if you had lymph nodes removed you cannot let them take blood or blood pressure from that arm or it encourages a bout of lymphedema. I think she was trying to be helpful and not “live being defined” a cancer patient. But I wasn’t there so I don’t know for sure. And there are those out there who become breast cancer victims. I also see a big difference in the positive attitude of women compared to their diagnosis and their treatment process. Had I had a lumpectomy and radiation my mindset, body, and mental state would be in a whole different place than it is having had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, reconstruction with expanders, the swap surgery to implants, my cancer is triple negative and I have the brca2 mutation. My silver lining is that my lymph nodes were clear. This is a whole different battle and future lifestyle for me vs someone who has had other pieces of this treatment path and diagnosis. The main thing to look good feel better is to teach pople how not to infect themselves during their nadir days and how not to contaminate their makeup. I guess it’s just like sitting in church. You all just sit there with your own feelings, thoughts, and place that you are in your spiritual walk. You may talk about that a little and then some people may go out into the parking lot and run over five other people trying to get out of the lot first so they can get to Bob Evans or IHop and not wait on line. The services you receive and the support group you CAN find – can all be appreciated and altered mentally by you as you see the other side of what people are dealing with. I have found many women who are going through this fight alone – and at a look good feel better class they may be needed someone to reach out to them and help them by listening or just by caring about them in that class. No one ever knows the other person’s full story or how scared they really are. That is what I try to remember. I am not in a support group because I don’t want to live in the breast cancer arena in that way. I chose to volunteer for the American Cancer Society as a coordinator for the reach to recovery program and I am also a team leader for one of the breast cancer walks. I choose to give back more than I take and I try to judge these other women as little as possible. I know far too many women who are on this path alone….and I do mean alone. They may have insitu – a lumpectomy and some rads – and be on their way…but to them, this is the biggest battle of their life – and you know what – for them, it just may be.

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  12. Melissa Buhmeyer · February 19, 2012

    Oh sweetie, I get it. That’s why I don’t go to those groups either. I find groups that fit me better online! I have had to leave groups because all they focused on was running out of options, as stage ivs often do. Outside the conventional world, those options I find are limiting. The alternative world is less limiting and is more focused on life, IMO. I have been blessed enough to find some incredible individuals in both worlds. 🙂

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  13. bethanyparks · February 25, 2012

    I loved getting free shit because I had cancer. Especially makeup. I couldn’t stand the support groups – the recurrences, the late stages, the pain and sadness, the depression. Nope – that part wasn’t for me… however, if there was free shit someplace – I was there. The makeup, the towels, the water bottles, the scarves. I figured all these corporate entities were paying for this stuff, I might as well take part. I was working hard for them.

    My hospital had a social worker on staff. She became my go-to therapist during treatment. I would have my breakdowns in her office. She got it.

    When my treatment was complete, that’s when I went back into therapy. It wasn’t cancer therapy – it was just life therapy. I needed to keep it all in perspective.

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  14. kymlucas · February 26, 2012

    I’m sorry your experience wasn’t so great with “LGFB.” Mine was the opposite. There were a few people there who were only negative whose symptoms and problems were naturally bigger and worse than anyone else’s, but there were others in my group who kept them in check.

    However, I didn’t feel the need to run out and join any support groups either. I was fortunate and blessed enough to feel like I got what I needed from friends and family.

    I just learned yesterday that a good friend has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I expect to be part of her little support group as I’ve become for my cousin who’s currently in treatment for breast cancer. That and my blog is my way of sharing what I learned, although everyone’s experience is different.

    Like you, I’ve been pretty positive through the whole experience. Can’t imagine handling it differently, but I was lucky. My cancer was caught early and seems to be gone, at least for now. Even if it wasn’t, I think you just deal with whatever happens. I keep thinking, “I wonder if I’ll be so positive if it comes back.” But, deep down, I believe I would handle things the same way. What choice is there, really?

    For me, cancer was/is a little side trip from my normal life. The analogy I keep coming back to again and again is that of a train being temporarily shunted to a different line before rejoining the main track.

    As for identifying yourself as a “cancer patient” whenever you need blood drawn, I was told not to have blood pressure taken or blood drawn from that arm because I have no lymph nodes there. Also not to carry heavy purses on my shoulder and just keep an eye on any cuts or scrapes on that arm and hand. I also wear a lymphedema sleeve and gauntlet on that arm when I exercise or fly. I didn’t really want to because I hate the way they look, but my therapist told me she had a patient who got lymphedema TEN YEARS after her surgery. Then I thought, “Wow! Okay. I guess wearing the ugly sleeve sometimes in order to prevent lymphedema is better than getting it and having to wear one all the time.”

    On the other hand (and isn’t there always another hand?), I read on one listserv a huge list of all the things you’re not supposed to do if you had an axillary dissection. Everything up to and including taking hot baths. Well, sorry, I’ll take reasonable precautions, but, like you, my life will not be defined by a disease.

    Thanks for your blog. I love hearing your point of view. Hang in there. You’re doing great.

    P.S. I LOVED the great big ole bag of free makeup! Of course, I’m a sucker for freebies. 🙂

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  15. Susan · August 10, 2012

    I really appreciate the way you do not want to be defined by the disease. I also agree with one of the comments about different all of us are. I was very lucky to find a great support group where I found a friend who went through chemo at the same time as me. What is so helpful about support groups in information. However, if you don’t “click” with the people or especially the group leader and you don’t feel an afinity with the people there are other ways to o about your journey. I am enjoying your blog. -Susan

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  16. lightscanceraction · September 22, 2012

    I found the Look Good Feel Better presentation they did as a webinar on the Internet back in 2011. I think I will try that first, although you don’t get the free makeup. 🙂 I think support groups are great for people who need them, but my blog and my family & friends are my support group. I am blessed to have great friends who are there for me, every step of the way, including several who have previously been through this experience. I tend to use those resources first and will probably not use any of the support groups or other services. I can relate completely to your perspective on this.

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