Sunday, 27 February 2011

My Fake Fake Tan

One funny anomaly of chemotherapy: instant holiday glow. It's taken me four sessions to realise this. What with me already being the pastiest Brit in North London, I expected a post-chemo complexion so pallid it would get me cast in Twilight 4. Or whatever it's going to be called.

I've always been anti fake tan, it just doesn't look convincing on me - but I must admit I love a real tan (safely only of course, that's the beauty editor in me - SPF 30 or SHADE). I feel healthier, hotter, skinnier. Yes, skinnier. I believe it holds the same slimming properties of the LBD - less contrast in the shadows or some such.

So imagine my confused delight when I got undressed in front of Claire after session 2, and she asked me if I'd been fake tanning. In the interests of Look Good Feel Better, ok yes, it would have been a perky idea, but seriously, I hate fake tan.

I always admire my hands when I have a real tan - my more vain and biologically diverse version of navel gazing. So there I was gazing at my hands for a few weeks before I asked DadJokes (always brutally honest) if I looked tanned. 'hmm, maybe? Definitely yellowish I'd say, maybe it's jaundice?'

Today my sister came round and said she'd never noticed how cute my freckles were. Freckles! Another happy outcome of a holiday dose of vitamin D.

Eventually I got it confirmed by Pat, my lovely chemo nurse. 'Yes, some people get pigmentation. It goes away though, don't worry.'

Don't worry? I of course want my weird fake fake tan to stay, it's non streaky, sets off my Jil Sander inspired Mani perfectly, doesn't cost several hundred pounds in anxious air miles (I hate flying), and makes me look and therefore feel healthy when really I should be the opposite.

If you're not so blessed (!) I can recommend Decleor Aroma Tan. Or rather best friend, fake tan fan, Beauty Writer Katie can.

It doesn't give you freckles though, ha!

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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Keeping Positive...(is impossible so don't worry about it)

This is a bit much for me to say, since I worry about it all the time, but that's exactly my point. Giving someone a cancer diagnosis, then necessitating that they 'stay positive' (seriously, you get it from all sides, doctors to colleagues to neighbors to someone you went to school with age 12), is tantamount to requesting dry eyes at the end of The Notebook/Bambi/Armageddon, delete where appropriate.

I suffer from Remain Positive Paranoia (RPP) to the extent that I am afraid of any negative thoughts impeding my recovery. I literally picture them canceling out all effects of chemotherapy. If I suspect one is creeping in I have to have an emergency think about chocolate or kittens or anything to blank out my entire mind, since it is virtually impossible at this point to replace a negative thought with a positive one.

Remember 'The Secret'? Same thing. In the end I agree, there can only be good from trying to turn your thoughts to positive ones (to get a cheque for £10,000 in the post. Er, I'm still waiting for mine). But this book had me scared of the inevitable negative ones too. Actually frightened. The thought being if you allow a negative thought into the universe you make that negativity happen. It sits better for the positivity side of things see? I was introduced to it by a friend who was so entranced with the philosophy (pff) she would call and check on my thoughts, and I, in moments of bus-stop mind wandering, would call her back in a panic and ask exactly how to phrase my current particular thought so there was no inkling of a negative. You see, RPP sufferer, even before D-Day.

Turns out The Secret is ridiculous. There is no secret. I think what the doctors, neighbors, school friends are trying to say is don't give up and wallow around in pitiful misery all day every day. The important thing is you ARE allowed to do this sometimes. You're going to have those moments - this is cancer people - but at the same time it's a long road and there is fun to be had along the way. Banana pancakes and ASOS anyone?..

If you're still worried, some tips to being as positive as you can, at some times, only when you feel like it:

Make Plans - going to Busaba Eathai on Old Street of a Monday has me in raptures (outfit planning, menu thoughts, what wig to wear) for a WEEK beforehand.

Chemo Countdown - yes 8 sessions is a lot, but 1,2,3,4 down, 4 to go suddenly doesn't seem too long, (sometimes!)

Watch the Discovery Channel - there is a big huge world away from your own little one with an awful lot of other, often more important stuff going on. And it looks fantastic in HD

Avatar - It took me a while to get round to watching it - blue giants in love in the forrest?? - but what an amazing movie, had me thinking happy thoughts for three whole days afterwards. And I'm not even that soppy.

Notice the benefits - from the clear skin/sparkly eyes compliments to all the extra fuss and attention, (if you like that kind of thing), wallow in it a little bit. I bet there's someone who is even a little bit jealous. The weirdo...

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Friday, 25 February 2011

Feel Better...Look Better!

This has been something of a mantra of mine since a wise woman told me a very simple philosophy in life. Some background: I was having some CBT for panic attacks on our 3rd or 4th session my sweet, very slight doctor asked me how I was, 'no change', asked me what I was doing, 'not much' asked me what I had planned, 'erm, nothing really', then flipped and shouted at me a bit.

She took in my attire (grey ugg boots, black jeans, grey top), severely under styled hair, minimal makeup, and said 'well, what do you expect? You're wearing slippers to work for gods sake. Put some bright clothes and lipstick on and start saying yes to some things.'

Simple idea, yes, massive difference, absolutely.

Now if I have to go out on a Friday night and can't be bothered, red lipstick (always Rouge Dior in Red Premier) makes me bother. Or new shoes. Or anything new -funny how that happens, hey?

These days things aren't quite so simple, but there are some definite pick me ups that definitely make me feel better, which makes me feel I look better, and then we're right back where we want to be!

Dior Lippy aside, here's some others:

I'm actively looking forward to work next week so I can pick a previously boring outfit that will never look boring with red hair

The happiest shopping experience from my bed/sofa. Retail therapy should be on the NHS. If it looks bad when you get it, who cares- the anticipation of something new (I've even started imaginary holiday shopping) is enough to pep me up till the mail man comes, and the 'new in' button never fails to delight

YUM, I can cook these, they're healthy, and they taste DELICIOUS. Which shouldn't ever go together in my lover-of-food world, but tis true. Recipe link imminent...

Oh how I miss my wardrobe. It was bordering on dangerously overflowing but I loved everything in it. Work was a daily excuse to wear something fabulous (the pros of working in a magazine office), and now I fit just six opportunistic days of serious outfit planning (to make up for the lost ones) into three whole weeks worth. Can't tell you how fun it is to pick those babies out though, even short of breath, bit on the woozy side, girl at work with swine flu, NOTHING will come between me and my first work pick of the part time week. Well, except maybe the swine flu girl.

In which case...

When I was diagnosed I got the mother of all PJ' gifts sent to me from my lovely work girls.
i) Full on cashmere tracksuit from M&S. Heavenly bliss that makes me want to scrap that 'get dressed' point altogether.
ii) Gorgeous Cath Kidston flannel set that is too beautiful to sleep in but perfect for impressing visitors/postmen/district nurses. It's the PJ equivalent of matching undies, in a mood way, not a rude way.

A TREAT. I know we've covered ASOS and banana pancakes (don't forget maple syrup), but if you really need a pep, treat yourself to something with a bit of meaning. I had my eye on a gorgeous YSL ring on net a porter. I knew it was silly with my current situation (mainly cost:wearability ratio) but eventually I succumbed, and now it is my special diagnosis ring that makes me feel good whenever I wear it. I should obviously have a half way through chemo ring (oh! Just reached that milestone), a changing medication ring (well, yes that's the next session), a final op ring, a radiotherapy ring, a beat the bastard ring and so on. But maybe I shouldn't get them all myself... Are you listening DadJokes?

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Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Hair Thing & How It Happened

How it was...

During a whirlwind day of scary diagnosis, meeting hundreds of specialists, seriously freaking out, avoiding (in my case) or asking (in DadJokes' case) thousands of questions, you may be surprised to hear I was pretty consumed with the hair thing, even then.

This could have be in an effort to blank out the scarier stuff, it may be because I work in media and media portrays cancer as a bald episode with vomiting and sadness (very important tip, if you are expecting a medical result of any kind, no matter how unlikely worst case scenario is, do NOT watch 'My Sisters Keeper' 3 days before. It is a very good film, but it makes diagnosis infinitely and unneccessarily more terrifying.)

Or it could be because I am a 31 year old beauty editor, and woman I should point out, who was always all about the hair, it was long, it was happily curly or wavy, depending on it's mood, I had just fully mastered the tongs, and then bam! 'you will lose your hair'. This is not something I had contemplated, except when considering Gail Porter on the odd occasion and wondering how she goes through life bald and proud, and how I don't think I could. Turns out I was right.

Not all chemotherapy combination means you'll lose your hair. In my case however, the absinthe-equivalent cocktail meant there was no point even trying the cold cap, the best thing was to go for a shorter style to make the transition a bit easier.

So, a couple of days later I held back the tears, went round to the wonderful Claire Rothsteins house (she of hair angel, friend and wig expert status), who cheered me up as she gave me a 'Frieda' - hottest cut of the season, named after choppy, kooky supermodel of the same name.

I do realise I look saddest in this picture, but that's because the first cut is the trickiest - no going back you see, wake up call etc. But, I liked the cut. There's something of a release in doing a drastic hair thing, knowing you have no choice to make as such.

This cut lasted till one wash when I couldn't style it anything like Frieda. Useless at hair.

So stepped in Kenna of fame. He has been a long standing very good friend, opened his own studio (if you can get to East London, it is a lovely experience, and he's very interested and up on the NHS wig thing). he came to my place and gave me the best super crop ever. I hated it of course, it was pixie short and nothing like anything I'd ever go for, but after a few days (this one was easy to style), a hundred 'you should always have your hair like that' compliments I loved it, which of course meant I was getting more anxious at the inevitable result.

I had decided to try work again the week after, wanted to go in with my real hair, so obsessively tugged the sides regularly to check it was still going strong. I've said it before but I just couldn't imagine it falling out, couldn't see it happening.

This is what the literature said:

Hair can take 3-4 weeks to start to fall out.
Your pubic hair will most likely go first (result!)
You can lose 50% of your hair without anyone noticing.

So, two weeks after chemotherapy when I had my first sign (middle point, above), I thought I had a week or so left. Something of a shocker then to itch my head that evening and come away with 7/8 strands of hair. Result was immediate meltdown and lengthy discussion with DadJokes and Google on what to do next. Turns out Google not so helpful, but DadJokes infinitely more so. With no real info on how long the thing takes, how it happens (I had visions of clumps of hair on my shoulders at work) we plumped for an immediate grade 1 all over, and wig debut for first day back at work.

I'm not going to lie, I had come to love the pixie crop, the shaving was the worst bit so far, I blubbed, DadJokes blubbed, the cats were beside themselves with excitement, and I couldn't look in the mirror for a day. Turns out I was a bit premature too since the super short didn't entirely fall out for another week or so. BUT, definitely the right thing to do. It was the anticipation that was the worst thing - isn't it always?

I even got used to the GI Jane look, I still prefer it to the Richard O Brien look, and all this several stages of shortening means I know exactly what stages to look forward to when it does come back, and I'll LOVE every single one.

Now for the brave bit...I'll let the cat take the limelight!

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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A Chemo Room With A View

I just spent my entire Monday in one, so I thought, for the uninitiated, a little ode to the place that makes me better (although it doesn't make me look, OR feel better, that's for sure), was in order.

This is my view, look, there's the boyfriend making me laugh with various medicines, I'm not sure how, but he's very good at it; earning the digital pseudonym 'DadJokes', and accompanies me every time without fail - no mean feat, that is a full 9-5 commitment.

There's my parents arriving,

again, they schlep up to North London from Surrey every time. So we have a little family gathering, where most people seem to come alone. The thing is, forget what you see in the movies, actual chemotherapy day is not so bad. You don't feel sick at the time (I never have anyway), you see some lovely familiar nurses and doctors, you get a lot of FREE lorazepam (to be taken responsibly of course)(and not to be joked about in blog form, but how to make a chemotherapy post slightly amusing? There you go!), and your family get to do their bit, where mostly they feel pretty useless.

Notice also I get a bed, in favor of an upright chair - bonus- since I have port-a-cath, which basically means my arm veins get spared in favor of an accessible plastic friend that sits between my ribs, so, after initial installation operation, the whole thing is pretty painless too.

Some advice though, kicked off by Nina Thompson, aka Nina Balleriana, who read my blog and offered this up:

"The day before chemo make sure you eat...ALOT...and .....when you feel like crap and can't concentrate on reading or TV I find listening to audio books really helps..!!"

She's right, I have an overly active imagination according to my own mum, which has resulted in anticipatory and association sickness. Basically anything I eat on chemotherapy day, I can never bear the thought of again (so far), since I feel pukesome afterwards. This has knocked out turkish food, (heave) pearl barley, (eurgh) and chickpea curry (previously loved and lost). It's like the salami that gave you that food poisoning episode association, but every three weeks. Haven't discovered how to overcome this yet, aside from living off mint tea and carrot sticks for a day. Does the waist line wonders though!

Any tips on this and other chemotherapy advice for the masses, please comment below, I'm still learning too...

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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Battle Is On: Me v's my Lashes

According to the (very) basic principles of chemotherapy, it attacks fast growing cells. This includes tumours, hair, nails, mouth cells etc. My consultant said since eyebrows and lashes don't grow quite as fast, they will hopefully just thin.

I bloody hope so, the hair thing, in the end, I can deal with - it's temporary, I can adapt to the wig/hat business, and on the whole no one can tell.

No eyelashes however, and I'm in screamingly obvious territory (please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to hide the fact, not ashamed in the slightest, I just don't want people to feel sorry for me and I don't want to be sad/self-conscious/nostalgic when I look in the mirror).

And false lashes I'm crap at, even with my real lashes on top to disguise the poor application.

SO, I'm having a war with myself. I won't let the lashes go quietly. I must admit every day I find one on my cheeks I panic a little. I wear mascara to work and I'm obsessively gentle at removing it with gentle cleansing wipes. But the real weapon is this:

RapidLash. It's an eyelash enhancing serum, available at Boots for £40. I tried it before in my capacity as Beauty Ed, and the results were ridiculous. I have (had) good lashes anyway, and a coat of this every night had them literally tickling my eyebrows within 12 weeks. I could see them when I blinked, in the best possible way, I was almost cow like...

I have no idea if it's helping with lash loss, but I will keep trying. I feel like it is. I'm four chemo sessions in, and my eyebrows have practically faded into obscurity, my lashes are measly, but the combo of RapidLash serum, and, when I go out, Revlon Grow Luscious by Fabulash Mascara (it has the same principles, but in a blacker than black formula so my lashes are being helped even under makeup).

And look at the difference pre and post makeup! (My eyebrows and lashes were pretty dark before...)

I apologise for the freakish close ups btw... On the brow front, I have discovered Dior Sourcils Poudre powder brow pencil with brush, in Chestnut. Again, Beauty Ed I may be, but personal makeup application not my strong point! This powder pencil is foolproof, doesn't matter how sketchily you draw it on, the in-built comb brush blends it to perfection! According to Dior, its always a massive hit at LGFB Editors day in Selfridges (more on that later) and also
with our make-up artists who participate in the classes for LGFB (and that too!). Not super cheap though, at £16.50, so here are some similar alternatives;

M&S Perfection Eyebrow, Pencil & Brush Duo, £5
Rimmel Professional Eyebrow Pencil, £2.99
Benefit Instant Brow Pencil, £14

P.s. Little tip. The thinner your brows and lashes, the paler you appear, so consider this both when choosing you brow pencil colour (I went one to two shades lighter than natural) and also wig choice - you don't want your hair colour to wash you out!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Bobble Hat: A Love Story

I'm hoping you're starting to know me by now, so you can probably guess that the prospect of losing my hair had me straight on asos for ESSENTIAL accessorising opportunities. I bought the following:

1 x grey felt cloche hat
1 x knitted turban in black
1 x same knitted turban in tobacco
2 or 3 or 4 (I forget) patterned or plain scarves

I must point out that I was quite cheery at this point because deep down I felt like my hair wouldn't fall out, I just couldn't see it happening. And shopping always makes me happy.

My consultant told me "you'll definitely be a glamorous hats and scarves woman", I thought "I'll definitely be a wig woman", but I smiled pleasantly and agreed, feeling mortified at the thought of my boyfriend seeing me bald. The hats were purely for home use (I'm going to admit it - the scarves were for bed time, I couldn't bear the thought of him seeing me bald. Stupidly it turns out, since he is the only one I'm truly comfortable with seeing it now).

Asos order arrived, I sent the cloche hat back, I can't get to grips with the whole scarf thing, and the turbans remain untouched in my hat n scarf drawer. Turns out I am naturally pre-disposed to the humble bobble hat. I live in the same two - one is an old faithful, the other is an on-loan from best friend Katie - she is never getting it back.

I keep them either on my head or by the front door so I don't freak out the post man/delivery boy/unexpected guests,  They're like a comfort blanket, and when it comes to comfort, fashion is as superfluous as Richard Keys and Andy Gray.

Comfortable, slouchy, misshapen, classic bobble hat(s), I thank and love you.

p.s. Knitted turbans only look good with hair coming out the bottom. I trial and error so you don't have to. You're very welcome...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Working the LOOK London Fashion Week Show

One of the first questions I asked on D (for diagnosis) - Day was 'what do I do about work?!' - I was something of a workaholic. Actually, I still am, although I really thought that would change - it hasn't. See?  I'm still normal!

Although I can't quite manage the hours I did before, being a part-timer is not all bad, the night before my first day back after chemo week, I can barely sleep for excitable outfit planning. If you could see the sheer volume of clothes that hang redundant in favour of pyjamas, you would feel nearly as sad as they do. So imagine the mind whirring that went on the eve of our third LFW fashion show yesterday. Not only was I getting dressed, I was appearing in chosen outfit on film, talking through the makeup looks for the catwalk. Videos are now live, here and here!

Look Good...Feel Better were there again - they've worked with us every season since our first show -but this time it was quite weird for me to meet up with them as a supportee, rather than just a supporter   (the beauty industry has always been heavily involved with LGFB and vice versa). I can't help thinking of a programme I saw once - and this is the weirdest analogy I'll ever commit to digital text - where a man became a woman, and then got a boyfriend, and had unique insight into how he worked mentally and, erm, physically. Make sense? Too much? Basically I'm like a teacher and student rolled into one is what I think I'm trying to say...

Valerie Rushton from Look Good..Feel Better

And the best thing was, working that hard all day - it is full on backstage at a fashion show let me tell you - had me completely forgetting I'm supposed to be ill. Seeing a lot of the same people I work with every season who didn't have a clue anything had changed also added to the effect. I remembered that evening though when I felt like someone had administered a general anaesthetic at only 19.30.

The worst thing was viewing all the amazing catwalk outfits I really want to add to my neglected wardrobe. Pointless that may be, but workaholism is not my only addiction. Time to defrost the credit card...

 me and lovely LOOK Beauty Writer Katie Selby
Petra Nemcova in New Look dress during the run through

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Wig 101, pt I

This is of course a mammoth, huge, overwhelming, and often times funny subject that can't possibly be squeezed into one post. Mine aren't even in chronological order, since the hair loss thing was not only the biggest and hardest obstacle, it happened very early for me. So now a couple of months on I'd like to consider myself something of a wig veteran. Ok something like a wig veteran!

But I'm exceptionally lucky- I have a best friend, Claire, who is an amazing hair stylist, she works on shoots with me, she's a serious hair and wig expert. I have an amazing support from the Headmasters salon team since I directed a campaign for them, and my very good friend Kenna from, who's also an editorial wonder man. Basically, I know I'm in a unique position to get the very best wig advice, help, tips, cuts, everything, so let me share!

Today, after a home visit from Jonathan Soons, Senior Art Director at Headmasters, I am gloriously ginger! I can't tell you how much this makes me want to go out tonight. And I'm sure you can appreciate, that is really saying something. Like when you buy a new pair of Camilla Skovgaard shoes (my weakness) from, a new wig, done right, has the same motivational effect! I would never have the guts to go so red with my 'real' hair, so already, one big bonus to wigs.

I should point out that the ginger one (it's by Trendco in Notting Hill, they named it Amber, so that's what we'll call it), is not my first wig. My first was as close to my natural hair colour as possible to ease me in gently. But as I relaxed about the whole thing, I decided to have fun with it a bit, and for a girl who LOVES accessories, compulsory wig use is just another huge accessorising opportunity. Bonus no. 2.

So tonight I am going to play pool, in Amber, which also means I MUST wear YSL Rouge Pur lipstick in 145, otherwise I look a bit one dimensional (always remember changing your hair colour means you need to rethink your makeup a little bit too), and Benefit Hoola or I look a bit pasty. And Camilla Skovgaard heels of course...

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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Start

Whether you're reading this because you're interested in the beauty industry, interested in cancer or cancer support, or, like me, going through treatment for cancer you might like a little intro - so just for you...

My current blog just didn't seem quite so relevant after my early December diagnosis. I wrote about my life as a beauty industry insider (still do in fact -, but as my posts thinned from daily to weekly to occasionally, to fit around treatment, I realised I now have little to talk about personally, aside from wig maintenance and chemo-friendly skincare.

Call it a bit of a journey I'm going through, that as a beauty editor and young woman (at the very least in cancer terms, 31 is VERY young - the first unexpected positive, yey!), how I look should be of significant importance to me. Once I stopped feeling guilty that I was so consumed with worry about being bald - how superficial of me - I realised eventually that of course I should worry about it. I am a girl after all. And unless you're going through it I don't think you can fully understand how important your changing looks can feel ahead of everything else you have to worry about. Just looking normal definitely helps to feel normal, so my degree in philosophy taught me that ergo: looking good can make you feel good. I knew that ergo thing would come in useful one day...

two months in and I can honestly say I've never had so many compliments. Sure some might be sympathetic ones, surprised ones nervous-silence-filling ones, but I don't need to hear 'but you look so amazing/healthy/fresh any more times to feel it too. Or to notice the 'but' part, like I shouldn't look any of those things. Why not? There is something to be said for putting on some heels and makeup after a week or so sloping around in PJ's, and just how refreshed (in my case ridiculously excited) that can make you feel. If that isn't important at a time like this, I don't know what is.

So this is in essentially something of a diary, if I can impart knowledge along the way, the pleasure is wholeheartedly mine, but what I discover is yours too.

Enough of the pre-waffle...onto the important stuff!

p.s. oh, and superficial doesn't even come into it. Turns out it definitely isn't just me feeling that way; Look Good...Feel Better have dedicated an entire cancer support charity to the very same issue. They realise that at a time when huge importance is placed on a positive attitude (more on that later), the demoralising and confidence-crushing effect treatment can have on appearance is so not something to be glossed over. Lip glossed over, maybe...