Thursday, 31 March 2011

Photo Shoot Phobia

It especially kicks in when I have to have my picture taken by photographer friends, which is what I'm doing right now, whilst writing this. I'm posing with my iPad as a prop, and such is my hatred of photo taking that I had to actually write a post, with one finger, to distract myself from horrible, cringe situation.

This is for something blog related, but it seems to be the most recent of a whole new host of photo or film opportunities. Who knew cancer could be so productive? Anyway, the first time such an opportunity arose, it was completely un-sickness related. My agent called with a possible TV thing (being a beauty journalist sometimes throws up such a request), and as I was mentally calculating my work diary around my treatment diary around my projected bad days diary to see if it was feasible, she asked me something I hadn't even considered till then. 'But how will you feel about being on film at the moment?'

Absolutely fine, was my first thought. Before cancer I would have had worries about how my unpredictable skin would choose to behave on filming days. This is often a problem for beauty editors - we can't settle into a good skincare regime, because, if we're worth our journalistic salt, we have to try out a lot of different products all the time. But like I say, at the time I really hadn't looked better, I'd got over the shock so I didn't look so deranged, I still had a healthy brow and lash presence, my fake fake tan had just kicked in and I swear chemo destroys spots as well as everything else - something about the bacteria right? I must ask.

Today though, not so confident. There are a few reasons, one being the bags under my eyes from a tough treatment cycle. (It could be the snorer in my bed every night of course) The other is my poor, battered lashes. They're still hanging in there, but now more as the Mr Burns of the eye lash world - they wilt under the weight of mascara. And my eyebrows are so sparse the pencil doesn't grip so well.

I'll be honest, it can get to you sometimes, and I'll tell you what it is, but only after I tell you it's entirely fixable - you just have to reinstate confidence in yourself by making the extra effort with makeup and outfit and wig enough times to remember what you really look like, because this is only a temporary sh!tter after all.

The thing is, the chemo look is very very generic. I didn't know facial hair could be so pivotal to your identity, but take it away and we do pretty much all look the same, to the untrained eye at least. It's still a shock to think and feel you look like one person, and then see someone else when you look in the mirror. And since that reflection becomes much more common than the done up one, it's generic cancer girl that you start associating with yourself after five cycles of chemo. Hence the photo-phobia.

Aside from my confidence/height-boosting-Skovgaard shoes, I'm lucky to have Jose on my shoot today, who is miraculous with makeup, so he tweaked my early morning bathroom efforts to make them camera friendly. For those of you who don't have him, here's his tips:

1. Stick on eyelashes. This is obvious, but for some reason I was reluctant. But Mr Burns could definitely do with crutches, both metaphorically and in real (TV) life. Jose recommends Ardell Invisibands Wispies, "They're the most natural lash you can get".

2. Plum kohl eyeliner. "Because it works with your ginger barnet" but also because it gives a stronger lash line, without being too much of a contrast to your skin.

3. Taupe (i.e. not too bronze or pink) contouring. To frame your face, and also make it not so flat on film, because whether you are fake fake tanned or not, you can look pale when flashed. I'm using MAC powder blush in Sincere.

4. Bright lipstick (my favorite coral shade, no.7 in Gay Geranium). Brightens your whole face, gives you 'happy lips', and takes attention away from your, these days, frankly disappointing eyes.

Phobia (almost) averted.

I still haven't looked at the shots yet mind...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 28 March 2011


I'm feeling much better thanks, I was released from hospital after a couple of days convalescing and several failed attempts to draw blood. This has never happened to me before. I keep being told I have terrible veins. TERRIBLE ones. If they weren't blue already they surely would be after this many insults. (I''m sorry, I've been spending too much time with DadJokes).

So, I'm back at work today, such is the healing power of three things.

1. My friend Sam came round with the best present ever, a Jamie Oliver book, signed to ME from HIM. I think if I had this in hospital I could have done 12 less hours on the drip. Its amazing how shiny an exciting gift can make you feel. Hint? Moi? Yes of course.

2. Two roast dinners in a row. One home cooked, organic perfection from a very good friend who I haven't seen for a year. The other the very next day at a delicious pub in the (freezing) sun; vitamin D plus gravy overdose is no bad thing.

3. Juice.

Since I was diagnosed and advised to juice 5 times a day (this is mental. Even if you can get your head around the cost of that many organic fruit and veggies, the washing up is worse than chemotherapy), I have religiously had A juice a day, and, like the magic honey, swear by the energising effects. On my worst days I still manage to coerce my mum or man into making one for me, and I think I can feel it spreading its nutrient goodness from my insides out. But those days I am a bit out of it anyway.

In of it, or out, juicing is the way forward. When you struggle to stick to your '5 a day' recommendation (don't we all), think of me, trying to at least double that in the name of speedy recovery. The thing with all the healthy stuff is a lot of it tastes rubbish. My juice equation threatens to in theory (1 part fruit to 2 or 3 or 4 parts veg), but, with the clever inclusion of a basic sweet juice foundation, its always delicious. Even with my recent addition of wheatgrass shot, which frankly is 100% disgusting.

This does not work for such juice repellent veggies as whole leeks - DadJokes, PLEASE take note, lets not repeat that episode. ever.

My basic recipe is this:
1 x apple
1x carrot
1 x 1cm chunk of ginger
2 or 3 veggies of your choice (I normally do a weird combo of beetroot, broccoli, celery, spinach, red cabbage, kale, pepper, and/or cucumber)

From experience I wouldn't recommend raw garlic, half lemons, anything with rind still attached. Or whole leeks DadJokes, but apart from that, the rules are there are no rules.

Aside from the following:

Drink through a straw. This much fruit acid is not strictly great for your teeth. You can't even brush them clean straight away because they're vulnerable to erosion for about 5 - 10 minutes after. And if like me you've had them whitened at any point, the straw is as essential as retail therapy. i.e. very.

Drink within 3 minutes of juicing. The quicker the better, you want to get maximum nutrient and enzyme payout, and as soon as you cut a fruit or veg, you're already losing some.

Wash up juicer straight away. This is just my helpful tip for the chore aversive like me. If I don't do it immediately I won't do it, and no one wants broccoli pulp lingering in their kitchen for any amount of time. Believe me.

Don't make more than 2/3rds of a cup, this is some weird body anomaly that means yours will make use of only a little bit of juice, but the rest just gets wee'd away. So if you like the taste, go for it, but health and economy wise - no point.

I'm know there are skin glow properties in all these veggies too - if for no other reason than the, er, regular cleansing it encourages - a bonus, chemo or no chemo. I just know my required volume is easier to drink than eat, and I'm always one for an easy option.

And look at the pretty colours nature makes...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Know Your Enemy

I now know mine, her name is Doxetaxol, she is trying to foil my LGFB plan. Curses.

I've passed the half way mark in my treatment, (yey!) at which point they sometimes change your drugs, which they did mine, hence the introduction of The Enemy.

Aside from the various not-so-pleasant side effects, which have moved me to kitten posts etc. it is undoing all my hard work on the LGFB mission. Namely, I look worse and frankly, feel a bit sh!t. Oh, and I'm writing this from the hospital where I'm currently residing.

It's nothing serious, my immune system went from compromised to utterly obliterated for some reason (enemy related), so here I am, literally chained to my bed by the drip that has been going for 24 hours and counting - I have to call a nurse to let me wee/pass me an apple/turn on the fan. Actually, I need to see this as a room service-esque upside, instead of the Terribly British downside that has me holding my wee/gazing longingly at apple etc. because I'm embarrassed to make medical professionals run around after me.

So all that aside, I have been somewhat dismayed to see my Look Better crusade unravelling. It's a two-fold problem this one. Firstly I can't be bothered to bother. This is fine, it happens to the best of us often in this situation, but it really hit home when Katie took me to Sainsburys in Dalston (eurgh. This could be what put me in here), and I forgo'd wig and makeup for just bobble hat. Again, fine, but I just don't go out like that. I'm not ashamed, but I don't like people to see or think me sick, and I've always been that way. This is basically my reasoning for the LGFB philosophy after all.
But DALSTON Sainsbury's, this is the hub of all uber trendy creatives. There are countless people I know whom I would rather didn't see me in flat shoes, let alone bald, distinctly more Swedish-ish and blotchy. And these acquaintances are highly likely to be food shopping on Sunday too.

And Yes, blotchy. It's a bit harder to tra la la about how to look better when the drugs are really really attempting to make that impossible. But it is NOT (is the moral of this story), but harder, definitely. And I accept the challenge!

So, I already knew chemo was tough on your skin - I had a post planned and I'll still do it, but this is now advanced skincare 101, and intermediate will have to come later...

My once milky, then fake fake tanned hands were happily showing off YSL rings, and even up to filming makeup cutaways on the LOOK how-to videos. Now they're mashup, as DadJokes coined it. Take away the manicure and they could belong to Tommy Hillfiger after his Axl Rose encounter (I will never stop loving that story). But manicure? That is lesson one: extreme diversion tactics. Katie came round and gave me an indescribable greige base with gold glitter tips. Greige-ish is the best colour either of us has ever found, a ltd edition by Nails Inc called London. I am badgering Thea Green, founder of Nails Inc to make it main line, but till then They do a close second called Porchester Square. This is not just about looking pretty, The Enemy makes nails hurt, crumble, even lift, so painting polish is apparently good to protect them too.

The Hillfiger effect is from extreme Sahara dryness and apparent inflammation upon contact with dust particles. This I conclude from being in possession of hands at all times, but repeatedly missing the trauma that inflicts damage. There must be some angry and robust dust particles in my house judging from the effect they have. Hand cream helps! They just need TLC 24/7. I'm using a combo of Aveda Hand Relief (heh heh heh) and Boiron Homeoplasmine, a French emollient wonder cream. Any friend who mentions Eurostar plans to me gets a pharmaceutical detour added to their itinerary. It only costs about 3 euro too.

Face wise, call me vain in the face of Cancer, but I'm loathe to let the skin compliments drop off. I've been using Darphin Intral Cleansing Milk, followed by Liz Earle Super Boost Skin Tonic Spritz and Liz Earle Skin Repair Moisturiser. Now I need extra soothing and moisturizing and de-blotching so Ren No1. Purity Cleansing Balm is the pros choice (that's me), still with Liz Earle, but I'm also using Pro-Heal Serum Advance by iS Clinical, on the advice of Shabir from It's like skin Viagra, not that I would know, but basically I think this stuff is amazing.

Like I say, the not bothering to bother thing is harder to combat, so for now I'm flipping it up like George Samson (!) and concentrating on feeling better. The looking good part can wait till next week.

I prescribe myself several imaginary baths until I can soak in the real things (a nurse just came and offered to help me wash, I will stick to imagining baths), and Internet shopping. If only the 3G in hospital wasn't as mind-bogglingly awful as the food...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

En Vague

On a recent excursion accompanying DadJokes to the hairdresser (oh the irony), I made iPhone note of my findings in the March issue of Vogue. I always pay close attention to the adverts. Contrary to most peoples attitude to ads, I often find them - in print form at least- the best bits.

Interesting to note a strong leaning towards, guess what, the absence of eyebrows, plus Gisele in a wig. This is by no means new news,

But just saying...

No brows, significant spam PLUS headscarf at Sportmax, obviously took inspiration from yours truly.

Beautiful bleaching at Givenchy. Slightly overdone in male accessory

Dark hair plus no brows at Loewe. As my mum said when she saw me at recent chemo with same look 'Oooh, sort of Swedish'

Blanked out brows for Calvin Klein SS11, manicure by Katie Selby

Balenciaga obviously couldn't persuade Gisele to commit fully to the 'Freya' cut...

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Cats Are Not Just For Chemo

I'm sorry to all those who don't love kittens (dead inside), and it may seem tenuous, but I've got to tell you - in a non-recommended sort of way - that the right variety of cat time should be available on the NHS. In fact don't they do 'stroke' therapy in the US? If they're going to do it, it will be there.

Lucky for me, I have it, in the form of Elwood and Columbo, my Cornish Rex kittens. This isn't a proud mummy, pushing my babies onto anyone and everyone kind of post, I promise. I just have to tell you, I think they are happy medicine. And although I'm not saying go and buy kittens (Pat my lovely Chemo nurse, I promise that's not what I'm saying), just if you have some available to stroke, get access.
(Pat would say with gardening gloves, and I loathe to defy her superior nurse knowledge, so I include it herewith)

When I was diagnosed, she gave me the safety talk, she told me animals were a no no, I must at all odds stay AWAY FROM CAT POO, cat claws, cat scratches, cat mouths, 400 types of cat bacteria etc. Slight difficulty there was DadJokes and I had adopted two kittens the week before. The extent of my cat love is thus: If DadJokes were allergic, he would not have made it to partner status.

I did initially feel regretful, couldn't believe the timing, was afraid of the little beasts coming near me, which frankly was sadder than cancer. These cats though, must have been Buddhist chemo nurses in former lives; they were reincarnated to understand that they can only pat me, claws retracted - even when they play their favourite rabbit-gutting game (cat owners will understand), they just pat. I went about four weeks without a single scratch, that is unheard of in the kitten rearing world btw.

By the time I got the inevitable first one, I had relaxed somewhat, soaked it in boiling water for half an hour, slathered it in savlon, wrapped a BANDAGE around it, and successfully avoided sepsis.

Now I don't know what I would do without them. If you weigh up the pros and cons, avoiding poo and being careful around claws is not so bad (ever) in exchange for how much they make me laugh every day. This is more important for the sick, miserable or otherwise afflicted.

They are certifiably ridiculous though, lucky for me. From repeatedly rubbing their heads in candle soot to winking on command (I use 'command' to mean coincidence), to trying to suffocate my new niece, Jemima (ha ha!), they are the combined animal equivalent of Michael Mcintyre, in medicinal terms.

I'm posting this schmaltzy prose today because - although I don't like to focus on the tough bits - the last few days have been a bit that way. But my kittens, being Buddhist and all, have done that cat sense thing and just quietly purred and warmed various bits of my body at ALL times for three days straight. = Happy Medicine.

They're bloody annoying when it comes to blogging though...

p.s. If adorable kittens are not your thing (you may be dead inside), I recommend an alternative. The Happy Bag. Fluro orange, satchel style from Zara. Sunshine in leather form. I defy you not to feel perky when wearing this colour.

I also and of course need to thank the reasons for my cats being, breeders Shane & Mark. The ridiculousness and the patting is their fault since they brought them up that way, so if you're going to get some medicinal pets, I point you in their wondrous direction. AND they do chihuahuas (which I've never had to spell before, did I do it?)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Me v's My Lashes - The Battle Ain't Over

But, sad to say, I think I may be losing. There were several hints, first and most obvious - vastly fewer lashes. This isn't as blatant as it seems; apparently you can lose up to 50% of head hair without anyone noticing. I assume this is also the case for eyelashes, since I was counting 4 or 5 on my cheeks every time I veeery tentatively removed any makeup, but everyone else said, 'ooh, have you gone for false lashes then?' (that'll be the RapidLash).

This becomes even more indisputable when I go to put on mascara. With no barrier of natural lashes to buffer the blackness, I frequently turn up to meetings with an up-all-night-doing-who-knows-what smudge to the lash line. Which I don't entirely hate.

It's the constant weeping that gets me now. Any little gust of wind - in fact it doesn't have to be weather related- it could be someone waiving an invoice in my general direction, will have me trickling tears and ruining my carefully corrected smudge application within seconds. Who knew eyelashes were so biologically important? Needless to say crying of any kind is not helpful for the norm-seeking cancer sufferer. 'oh my GOD, are you OK?' Oh, thaat. No eyelashes.'

On the upside, you know how all the books say people love you more if they think you think they're funny (this is how I got DadJokes). I rejoice in how cute it is to see the delight in my friends faces when I can't control my tears of 'laughter' at their 'hilarity'. What selective memories these people have. Still, if it gets me more love, then I can forgo some lashes.

In a bid to conquer the Avril Lavigne smudge effect though, I'll trust in makeup. Up till now my old faithful liquid eyeliner has been working wonders. Applied right it can pretty much cheat lashes anyway, since it does what the real things do - elongate the eye, define it, make flicky shapes at the edges, but I'm finding it a bit boring doing the same thing everyday, plus I think a little off balanced having fewer and fewer bottom lashes - didn't think I'd miss these ones as much!

So a happy accident on another mad rush for the taxi man before work: trusted eyeliner flick, badly applied, had to come off (CAREFULLY - my remaining lashes are PRECIOUS). Rooting through back-up makeup kit for a bit of black Kohl, which I never wear, I could only find embarrassingly 80's blue.

So now I am reunited with my old experimental friend, Nars Eyeliner in Blue Lotus. Where once I'd smudged it along my top lashes, made it into a slightly too electric smoke (hence relegation to the back up kit), This is now the PERFECT extra definition for bottom lashes only. Black would be too hard, brown too dull (colour is only ever a good thing for me these days), and drawn right along the inside rim, I don't even need the liquid flick on the top lashes. Plus, the magic of colour means my eyes look more, well, colourful. (Someone said ginger recently - ginger eyes? at least I have appropriate hair to match).

For now at least, the battle continues. When I feel the need for falsies, I'll report back, but for now, even 5 or 6 measly hangers on, mascara'd with some Blue Lotus Nars or liquid liner, gives enough of an illusion of lashes that even my iphone camera is fooled. Seriously, there is hardly any hair here. The tissues are a testament to that.

p.s. Thanks to lovely Helen in the office who maybe found my invoice induced crying a bit too much and left the kind gift above on my desk.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Text Book

Ok, I'm halfway through chemo, it's time to admit; I am pretty much text book. I really really thought I wouldn't be, I don't know why. It's not because I'm special or superhuman, more it's nearly impossible to be told you WILL suffer this and feel like this and look like this in x amount of days, and then sit there and wait for signs. It's just difficult to imagine.

I said before, I thought my hair wouldn't fall out. This was exhibit 1 in the medical delusion stakes. Since then, every time I get another confirmed side effect, I'm strangely disappointed. I agreed with work that I'd come in part time, work a couple of hours less on those days and generally take it a bit easy. By two o clock on my second day I was disappointed to the point of tears at how wilted I was at my desk. I just didn't think I would be!

So let me tell you, I may be happily extolling the virtues of healthy-making blusher and lash growth serum, but 5 cycles in and I only now know the real meaning of chemo fatigue. They said it would be like nothing else you've had before, so after a couple of weeks when I found myself flopped on the sofa, very tired but unable to sleep, not bothered to turn on the TV, let alone concentrate on the True Blood box set, I though, 'ah, this is that something-else fatigue I've been expecting'. Oh I was wrong.

The Fatigue Proper only hit me a few weeks ago. I feel like I'm being mainlined Night Nurse. Apart from not too unpleasant flash backs to my up-all-night, sleep-all-day (aided by cough medicine - this I don't recommend btw) youth, this text book side effect is further disappointment for me. It's by no means awful, I get used to it and plod along - hey, only temporary and all that - but what is the real let down is this responsibility I have now lumped on myself to be a shining star, healthy facade in the face of cancer.

I didn't mean to, it was just going very well so far, and I genuinely did, (and do - don't get me wrong, I LOVE a challenge) think I sometimes look better than ever, which made me feel great. Not something I thought I ever would again now that I was sick. The responsibility is a blogging side effect. Im sure there isn't a text book about this one since I'm making it up as I go along, so bonus there, but duty to ALWAYS look fab in the face of Chemo, whilst writing LGFB blog is my very own issue.

Not only is this ridiculous, it is also stupid, and dumb. I've had loads of emails from lovely well wishers and fellow cancer patients asking me how did I look great when they went through varying degrees of shockers, from '1970's lesbian gym teacher' to 'looking like ET's bloated older sister'. So let me tell you, although I'm lucky to get advice, give advice, and raid the beauty cupboard for industrial strength radiance boost, I am by no means immune from ETism.

Yes I can help myself look better, feel better, and hope to help some other people along the way, but the main thing is, being happy with all the compliments and how good I feel (in parts), is not something I or anyone else has to strive to keep up. Its great when it's great, but come 16.00 at my desk when that Night Nurse drip has been running all day, NO amount of Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer is going to hide the long haul flight baggage I'm carting around under my fading lashes. And who the hell cares, well, apart from me, but that's because I'm an idiot on a mission.

So now I've fessed up to my merely human status, I don't care so much. I'll still layer on the concealer (Bobbi Brown is the best I've found btw, on good days you'll look freshly botoxed, on not so great, you'll look a hell of a lot fresher than you feel, but best friends and boyfriends will still notice because they're wondering about your superhumanity too. The bare reality is probably a huge relief all round to be honest.

I'm off to wallow in my 5th chemo cycle, makeup free week now. It's nice to give my skin a rest, but my mission awaits. Come on work week, I've got new eye sparkling, cheek flushing, lash conquering tricks to try!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Just Some Happy Thoughts

Just been thinking, I keep remembering some of the positives I missed off the list from the positive thinking (ish) post. So here they are. How could I forget these?..

1. Never having to shave or wax anything
 How could I gloss over this gift from the chemo gods? I truly realise the joy since developing a love of ankle grazing trousers, as part of my wardrobe overhaul. Even though I get up 2 hours before I have to leave for work, I'm always rushing for my taxi 5 minutes before it gets here. It's nice to know I can grab anything in my wardrobe and wear it without the extra, and often painful, bathroom time. Ankles showing? NO problem. Vest top? - yes I can hold onto the overhead bar on the tube, no problem! Emergency bikini situation? Er, I haven't come across one of those yet, but I'm safe in the knowledge it'll be NO problem...

2. Well there were a number of positives in that no. 1 positive I just picked up on, so:
- Wardrobe overhaul - fun!
- Getting up 2 hours early. This sounds like a negative, but its because I'm waking up fresher, without the need of an alarm - no hangovers, no instant lethargy from steak digestion etc.
- Taxi. I'm a sucker for a lazy journey to work. Compromised immune system means public transport is out for a week, and I don't have to feel frivolous for abusing my Addy Lee app. Like I say - medical necessity.

3. Two of my very good friends have given up smoking since and because of my D-Day. And found it pretty easy too. Yey!

4. Katie Selby is leading a load of my friends, her friends and girls from the office in the Race For Life this summer. I (no longer) secretly think they're mental, but I'm VERY proud of all of them. I'm happy also I have an excellent excuse not to take part.

5. I have a new found extreme excitement for lots of little things.
The strangest being when I start to feel better after chemo week. I get so excited by not feeling rubbish, its almost worth feeling rubbish for. Almost. Shopping - so exciting! Cooking - exciting! Fresh Air - mm, exciting! Sunshine - tra la LA exciting.

6. Not having to do everything
Its a bit of a bonus getting out of the washing up on a regular basis let me tell you.

7. Realising what's important in life. Its kind of sad that it takes something like cancer to put my own head into perspective - I'm not sure if its the same for everyone - but from realising how fantastic some of my friends are, to seeing my family much more, to knowing that not being able to find my keys does not require a full-blown sit-down protest.

Any more peppy ideas, please comment below xx

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Wig Wobbles...

...I've had a few, too many to not mention. I know I'm exceptionally lucky to be in the position to have some excellent wigs and wig advice thrown at me by very good expert friends.  Nevertheless I was weirdly nervous to wear my first one, I thought I'd be rubbish at it. I'm not sure how you come to be rubbish at wig-wearing, but I'm pretty sure I don't think straight a lot of the time - I'll put it down to an under publicised side effect of chemotherapy.

I think its the self-consciousness of it. I know I'm wearing a wig (it feels like a hair hat, which instinctively makes me want to take it off whenever I go indoors. I sit on my hands in restaurants just in case), so I think everyone can tell. I'm pretty much over that now, but there have been many wig wobbles along the way.

DadJokes found it a bit hard to get used to too. He knows what my real hair looks like (not as good to be honest) and this was different, so kept trying to 'fix' me. I know his intentions were lovely - like telling someone their jumper is on inside out, you'd rather know right? - but me being hyper sensitive of anyone being hyper aware, I found it upsetting that he wasn't just telling me it looked amazing all the time.

The fact was it didn't look amazing all the time, because I hadn't broken it in. I didn't know you had to, I'm not sure anyone really does, but me being a beauty editor perfectionist, I have now found various methods to make mine look broken in - i.e like real hair.
My best one is this (more to follow)
The wig roots were too perfect (its the way they're sewn in) so I kept thinking my hair looked like a helmet. Needless to say no one else did, but I'm a worrier. So I took random sections (don't tong the whole parting, leave 'flat' gaps) and tonged them just at the parting to lift them up. Once I'd shaken them through and added some salt spray they completely changed the look of the whole thing, to the extent DadJokes stopped it with the fixing and started asking me how to get my hair looking as good as the wig when it grows back.

My experience is just with real hair wigs so far, so when I get my hands on a synthetic one, I'll keep you posted with my trials and doubtless, many errors. In the mean time, I consulted Charles Worthington, the Honorary Vice President of Look Good...Feel Better, and his far superior knowledge. These tips are from the LGFB Confidence Kit (which everyone going through this should get btw).

1.      ' Colour:  choose a shade that complements your skin tone; for a natural look, go slightly lighter
rather than darker as the change will be less noticeable'
I went for my natural colour at first. I now realise the need for lighter. Today I am wearing it and, since it's 17.00 and I'm not my pigmented best, I look like Michael Jackson. Back from the dead.
2.      ' Finish:  When choosing a synthetic wig, it’s best to avoid those with a very high gloss shine, particularly if you want it to go unnoticed'
      I even add dry shampoo to my real-hair wig - my own was always on the scruffier side, so perfect hair feels like a flashing sign on my head that says 'WIIIIG!!!' 
3.       'Length:  always choose a wig longer than the style you want to achieve to allow scope for it to be cut into shape on your head'
4.      ' Size:  choose a size that feels comfortable and secure; if your hair has not yet fallen out, the wig should be quite ‘snug’ so that it fits well later on – or even better, try to find an adjustable wig'
        My Michael Jackson wig is adjustable, which is fantastic, except today I brushed it vigorously before I left the house, was late to a meeting, had said meeting, then met a PR friend for coffee before I realised I'd  unstuck the velcro and my hairline had travelled a couple of inches south. I wondered why my head felt so light on the journey in.
5.       'Cut:  consider having your new wig cut professionally to individualise it and enhance your natural features; small touches such as trimming and taking the weight out of a fringe can make a huge difference'
6.      ' Styling:  the best styling tool for wigs is your hands. Running your fingers through the wig to break up the hair will give it a natural finish. Wide toothed combs are also good'
        The best styling tool for my wig is Katie Selby. I am seriously rubbish at doing my own hair (I use 'own' in the sense of possession, rather than home grown) so I highly recommend an adept friend who can sleep over and is magic with curling tongs.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Happy (Buckwheat Banana) Pancake Day

On Shrove Tuesday last year, Katie and I very bravely gave up all chocolate and sweets. Me, not so up on my Christian religion, thought it would be one month. Six weeks nearly killed me. This year there isn't actually anything 'bad' left to give up in my diet, so I may have to give up moaning about it instead. So let me tell you about the food thing...

This is a tricky one to tackle: We all know how women can have a tumultuous relationship with food. I'm being hideously generalistic, and I never would have said I had one of those relationships (I NEVER diet, I love eating too much, I would just be thinner but depressed), but I can't pretend I don't delight a little bit in any kind of weight loss - even gastric flu induced. And since I am a relatively normal female, I am confident in assuming most women reading this will feel the same. Even secretly.

Since this is a loosely looks based blog, it's important to at least touch on an unexpected side effect of my treatment (in a round about sort of way): I have dropped two bloody dress sizes.

I don't think I needed to (previously a 10-12 - women will never just say a 12, but going through my wardrobe, most of the clothes I've had to pack away did have that on the label...), and I know a lot of people put weight on (I am only half way through treatment, I'm still expecting several other surprises to add to the list), but my own control freakishness has resulted in this - I'll be honest - not unhappy outcome.

First let me say, I am NOT recommending weight loss before or during treatment, in fact quite the opposite - you need to be as healthy as possible to deal with the drugs (ironic hey) - but for me, the healthy thing has led to the weight loss thing. Plus chemo makes me want to banish food to another postcode during the first week, so short of an intravenous drip feed, I can't help losing some. But that's just me.

I was inundated with 'diet' advice right at the beginning. From being told it was my fault I had cancer due to my eating habits (this is tantamount to a loon stopping me in the street to say its because I don't believe in god btw), to being persuaded 2 weeks before commencing chemo is a great time to do a punishing detox. It is NOT).

I know I felt a complete loss of control - a tough thing for someone who would rather fly a plane myself than have someone fly me in it -  so I immediately thought if I could make myself as healthy as possible, at least I was getting a bit of a handle on the thing.

The official line is the same as pregnancy advice - nothing unpasteurised, cured meats, soft cheeses (sob) etc. This is because of your compromised immune system. I researched a bit and went with my gut instinct, which is basically treat your body as best you can, because chemo is tough enough on it as it is, without asking your liver to deal with a glass of wine or your guts to digest a steak. There's a lot of debate on the soya/dairy issue too - they contain plant oestrogen, and since some breast cancers are hormone receptive, I thought it best not to add more fuel to the fire. Oh, and I try to avoid wheat too.

I know this sounds a bit mental, I'm basically a nearly full-time vegan. Me! While I sincerely hate being 'that' person who asks for their dressing on the side in restaurants, I really feel good that I'm doing something positive to help - its hard to just put 100% faith in doctors when you don't have a degree in medicine, like the pilot thing. Is that just me? Probably... Anyway, I'm happy with how good my skin looks as a result, people are forever telling me so, and I'm pretty sure that if I wasn't somewhat debilitated by chemo, I would be sprightlier than Tigger after a couple of Red Bulls.

Oh, and I must mention the other important point. Shopping is now a medical necessity, since none of my old clothes fit. So DadJokes can't tell me off anymore. Bonus!

I hope I'm getting across that I don't believe in diets, find diets impossible in fact, but when you have beating cancer as a motivation, it's actually a lot easier than you'd think. The main thing is not to put any pressure on yourself. You don't need to change your diet, you need to not be any more depressed than is absolutely necessary. If giving up cheese makes you want to cry, eat cheese. I just adapted my eating habits to a level I could cope with, and discovering I can learn to cook has cheered me up no end. I'm pretty sure if I can do it anyone can.

nb II
I'm also not saying anyone can, or should, but just FYI, in case you want to know how to follow the extreme initial stress instant weight loss plan, then the exceedingly healthy living, control-freak maintenance plan, now you know.

nb III
Also, slipping up sometimes is amaaaazing. I swear a little bit of chocolate never tasted so amaaaaaaaaazing. I can't imagine I ever would have gone nuts over a piece of wholemeal tomato garlic pizza base before either. Buts nuts I often do go.

If you're still interested, check out The Haven's nutritional advice. It's basically what I'm doing with a few bits tweaked for anti-depressive reasons. I'm going with the 'better than' principle that commends me for anything I do better than I did it before. That offers a lot of commendation opportunities, which is always nice...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Hair Thing - By The Boy

Hold onto your (bobble) hats, pass the sick bucket, take some anticipatory ibuprofen for the rib ache you'll have by the time you reach the end: My other half, DadJokes has produced this contributory blog post - at my pushy insistence - to give his side of 'The Hair Thing and How it Happened'.

I insisted because I wish I'd had a bit of insight into how the him-indoorses of the world would feel at
having their old girlfriends swapped in for balder versions. Then I wouldn't have wasted my money on headscarves and my time worrying about it so much.

So here it is. I can only apologise for the terrible jokery - but now you see where the moniker came from, and you can sympathise with me as you wish.

Although we were both physically in the room at the initial diagnosis, I think I may have been there more mentally than my girlfriend, ever-so-slightly. There were so many questions jumbled in my head I didn’t know what to ask first, so I tried these….

Does she have to have Chemotherapy?
How long does it last?
What do you mean 6 months? 6 months??
Is it every day? Can she stay at home?

And Sophie asked... Am I going to lose my hair?

Am I going to lose my hair! The poor sapling, she was genuinely worried about that. I now know with the wisdom of hindsight why she freaked out about this, as opposed to my ‘hair shmair’ stance. But for me as her significant other (sorry always wanted to use that description since Del Boy introduced Cassandra as such in Only Fools), it was a lot further down the priority list let me tell you.

I’ll be honest, it didn't even occur to me to ask - not because hair isn't important to me, believe me an overdue cut of my own gives me sleepless nights - I simply didn't place any importance on it in this particular context.

Now when Sophie asked me to write ‘the boyfriend's perspective on the hair loss thing’, I duly obliged, but I warned her it might not be quite what she wanted, because quite frankly my dear, I didn’t give a damn!

I actually found it quite hurtful when her mother took me aside to tell me Sophie was convinced I wouldn’t find her attractive anymore, that she was especially worried about bedtime when she couldn’t hide it from me.
I’m going to admit that I had a little weep about that to myself. I took it to mean I was comfortable with my insecurities around her, and perhaps it wasn’t reciprocated. (What? Don’t tell the lads…)

Of course it wasn’t as simple as that and we’ve talked about it since. Losing your hair is a bit more than merely an insecurity.  To me only a bit, because my point is, it doesn’t matter to me in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter to me on Sophie (or off!), so its hard to grasp how much it can matter to someone worrying about what I’m going to think about it. Phew. Am I making sense? I guess I’ll never truly understand what it’s like to be told that for the next year you'll be bald (I sincerely hope).

So fast forward to the first cut. Sophie was naturally nervous but I’d done my very best to remain canny about the whole hair thing since the start, I could see we needed a bit of canny.
Claire's haircut was very good, mid-length and wavy. I thought it looked ace but casting my mind back now, I’m not sure if I was 100% honest with my enthusiastic compliments. The cut was great don't get me wrong, but I just loved her long hair. I haven’t told Sophie this, so erm maybe a public apology for white lying. Sorry babe, I was trying to make you feel better during an obvious trauma.

It was only about a week later when she called me with a wobbly voice. “Kenna is coming round to crop me today.”
I had the thoughts;  Short short hair? Will she like that? Will like that?’ Kenna is a long time friend of Sophie’s, I don’t know him so well, but I hear he is a fantastic hairdresser. This was going to be interesting. I can admit now that for a split second I thought about his Hackney roots. Was it going to be an uber trendy haircut from the depths of Broadway Market? (for the uninitiated, a place in London where you are not worth a dime if your jeans aren't rolled up to your knees and you are not covered in multi coloured tattoo's and a handlebar tash)

Turns out it really was amazing and very sexy and I was surprised how much I loved it. But then again I might be a touch biased -  if you look as pretty as my missus does, even I could give her a good haircut.....

Yep… you guessed it.

Not so long later and Sophie was literally pulling her hair out (nb. I have a thing about the correct usage of the word literally. Here is a perfect example, please take note Mr.Jamie Redknapp and Ms.Katie Selby).
Quite frankly she was a mess, so I had to step up and take charge of the situation. "I'm taking it off, you will be fine and you will make it look beautiful. Trust me. I will think so no matter what, but I will call you Garibaldi at some points in the future" (um..yup..that actually got a laugh. And I do it too!).

It didn't take long. Whilst I sheared, we cried (yes, again), and Sophie doesn’t believe me when I say that I didn’t really freak out, even secretly, at the Vin Diesel look. Rather I was sincerely moved by how she was feeling and it hurt me to see her cry.
At the time I was thinking she could pull off rasta dreads, let alone a GI Jane crop, but it took me a while to get her to look in the mirror.
I will say this though. It felt very real now because there was finally a visual element to this bugger.

A couple of months have passed now, the love of my life is a baldy, and thankfully she has not once felt the need to try and hide it from me.
I try to greet her with a new name every time I come in the door. Richard O ‘Brien, Uncle Festa, Kojak, Terry Tibbs, Egg head, Right Said Fred, Grant Mitchell (any further suggestions, please comment below – I’m running thin) (like Sophie’s hair) (Sorry).

She just looks like Soph to me. I sometimes even forget that she has long hair (in the cupboard). Just this morning when she was all dressed and ready for work looking a gazillion dollars, I kept shouting her to come back in the room ‘‘let me take another look at cha’’. She looked amazing with this lovely red hair and with eyebrows and high heels – I guess I’m just so unfazed by the bald version it’s actually a welcome shock to catch a glimpse of the old hot one every so often!

Hair's to more of that caper then.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Compliments and how to get some...

OK, I'll be honest. I know I've been saying how I've had loads of compliments. It IS true, the consequential  blushes have been genuine and FREQUENT. BUT there has always been a little tiny bit of me that suspected they were 'cancer compliments'. Everyone is nice to you when you have cancer. I suspect if there was a movie made about me, I'd be more popular than Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls (the tail end). Of course there would be compliments - its not really the done thing to say '/wow! the eye bags!'

But yesterday I had a breakthrough. A bit of background: I work in The Blue Fin Building, home of IPC Media. It is a big one, there are 12 floors, lots of offices, lots of lifts, lots of bumping into people you used to work with or from another office etc. So I was in a particularly crowded lift, resplendent in Amber and my second proper outfit in two weeks. My friend Sam got in - we worked together when I was an intern at B magazine years and years and years ago, and now have a 'hello by the microwaves' kind of friendship that comes with a big building and busy lives.

"Wow, the hair! It looks great, when did you get that?" At this point I'm presented with the usual conundrum:

a)  I hate and am rubbish at lying.
b) That is an ambiguously phrased hair question, does she know? does she not know?
c) There are a lot of people in the lift who don't need to know I'm having chemo
d) I'm crap at compliments at the best of times.

"Oh, you know, erm, a little bit ago, not long. er, how are YOU?" The nice thing about this one though was the follow up email.

From: Sam Trotter <>
Date: Thu, 03 Mar 2011 15:51:19 +0000
To: Sophie Beresiner <>
Conversation: Oi!
Subject: Oi!

How come whenever I see you , you look rather fabulous and I look well I look like sh!te??

Loving new new hair though!


I still wasn't sure if she knew, so I pointed her to this blog. There followed several lovely heartfelt emails where it turns out she didn't know, and resulted in her trying to speak to some people to speak to some people to get me some face time with Jamie Oliver. 

So, now I have reached full and proper acceptance, I guess I'd better share what I'm putting my (geniune! yes!) compliments down to: Beauty nous.

Hair aside, lets start with the most common one, whether the kind complimenter knows or doesn't.

"You look glowing."

Exhibit A: The Megablush. - Duwop Blushbooster in Mango

This illuminating blusher has seen me through countless hangovers, very pasty days, photo shoots - I even used my own pot on 27 models at  last seasons LOOK fashion show, when the makeup artists expertly applied powder got blanched out under the catwalk lights.

Mango is simply genius. Its the perfect shade of coral that I believe works on everyone (bronze and pink you have to be more careful with). It has shimmer in it which I normally hate, but is subtle enough here that is makes your cheeks look plump and dewy, even though its a powder - weird. You can't seem to over apply it, and it just makes your whole face look warm and, well, glowy. I swear by it - its like Berocca in makeup form.

Get it here, and stock up like I have. If they ever discontinue it I will be more heartbroken than when Robbie left Take That. OK, I wasn't so heartbroken then, but trust me, this time I would be one of those girls tying up the Samaritans phone lines...

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

My Honey

I saw an 'oops' show  on TV once where a British news reporter said 'Hypodeemic Nerdle', (trust me, it was hilarious) and it has stuck with me to the point where it sounds more right to me than the right way. I have to carefully think phonetically about Hypodermic needle, but deemic nerdle - natural.

But I digress. I hate needles. Massive needle phobe. I'm not a fainter, but I'm a no sleep beforehand, ridiculously proud of myself afterwards, 'ooh look at my cotton pad bandage, poor me' type.

So imagine my delight at the news that one of us would have to inject me with Granocyte white blood cells for five days every time I had chemo. And its not a little gentle EpiPen either, its a full on, prepare it yourself, draw up mixture, discard needle, proper job. If you're interested I need it because chemo depletes my white blood cells for about a week, so I have no immune system basically. I become a slave to anti-bacterial gel, taxi's and air kissing.

 Poor DadJokes drew the short straw after I refused (to me injecting myself is about as possible as punching myself in the face), and my mum nearly passed out practicing on a polystyrene cup. "I'll do it" he insisted at that point.

Turns out its completely fine, he's really very good, and I like the comforting 'OK' lullaby we get into every time. "ok, ready? its going in, you ok? I'm going to do it now. ok? that ok? feeling ok?"


The funny thing is, in my first low week (that's what I call it), I was home for Christmas, and my entire family, who rarely get sick, all got sick. Except me, who was supposed to.

At the risk of sounding like an internet educated nutritionist, I'm going to attribute this to a little pot of honey. 
Shabir Daya, MR Pharms and co-founder of sent me Life Mel honey when I was first diagnosed, told me to have a teaspoon a day on an empty stomach, and although I didn't even know why, and to be honest raised an eyebrow, I did it like he said. Anything to help at that point.

Now that I finally have asked, it does make spookily good sense. 

Shabir says

'LifeMel Honey is derived from bees who are fed on a specially prepared mixture of herbs including Echinacea and Cat’s Claw, which are immune enhancing plants.  This provides the honey with a unique benefit that works rather like a vaccine helping to protect the immune system' 

And it's a lot nicer than sticking a nerdle in my stomach let me tell you. 

Its not the cheapest, at £37.50 per little pot, but it will last you a good month and I hereby solemnly swear by it. I was without it for a few days at my mums and I felt noticeably ropier for longer after chemo. You can find LifeMel here