Monday, 30 May 2011

Chemotherapy: A Beginners Guide

Since I'm done with my 8 cycles of chemo (did I mention that already?), and am now a qualified graduate, I thought I'd let you know what I've learnt with the benefit of happy, happy hindsight. Mostly because I wish someone had told me so I had that to reference, instead of My Sisters Keeper, which I've said before, is not healthy viewing. Whereas the movies would have you believe its all puking and rolling around and dark under eye circles, I beg to differ of course.

I've been able to think quite a lot about it actually, since I am still feeling a bit cr*p nearly two whole weeks after my last dose, so there's been extra duvet gazing - which is a convalescents alternative to navel. Like a Carbonara connoisseur (that's what I was in my dairy-accommodating days) especially savouring the very last forkful, my body would like to hang on to the effects of this final one for as long as possible it seems. Which is nice of it after the care and attention I lavished on it over the last 6 months.

1. Don't eat anything you like on chemo day. Even if you feel fine and hungry and are craving some Spaghetti Bolognese and reckon you deserve whatever you want since you've just very very bravely been pumped full of poison, don't. I now have associated sickness when I even consider Turkish food, rye bread, or, and this one is so bad I even gag when I type it, pearl barley. (But most people probably would anyway). I wonder if I'll ever be able to eat them again. The Turkish food I mourn on a regular basis.

2. This is not a beauty lecture, but since it is sage advice from a beauty editor, it should be adhered to like law of course. Treat your skin like you've seen the future you, and it isn't pretty. Yes you can't be bothered to put shoes on, let alone add an extra step to your skincare routine, but chemo is so drying (for 'drying' read !!!AGEING!!!) and the last thing you want when your hair finally grows back and you can go out again without drawing on your facial features, is to look 7 years older than when you started.

I was saved by Creme De La Mer. I realise I'm lucky and have access to this most luxurious of stuff, but I promise I tried a lot and The Concentrate (which was sent to me by a PR because she knows it's effective during and after chemo) is just miraculous. To the point where I sit at my desk and stroke my own face for comfort because it's just so so soft. So now I have better skin than before, which I'm sure is worth £250 odd quid. OK OK, I know I can talk. So alternatively I recommend Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair. Either way, after washing, before moisturising (with Ren no. 1 Purity Cleansing Balm and Elemis Pro Collagen Marine Cream respectively) these form my skincare trial and error chemo conclusion, and secure me loads of compliments, which is what its all about at the end of the day if I'm honest. Moving swiftly on...

3. Fybogel. Yes, well.  I don't really want to go into too much detail on this subject, but lets just say, a week to two weeks after chemo I can sympathise with a chicken, whose job in life is to give birth to a whole egg every day. The poor uncomfortable, sleep deprived, visions of Elvis dying on the toilet chicken... Fybogel is the answer. After extensive and investigative research. And sh!t loads of water.

4. Which leads me to...Water. This is boring advice and nothing new, but its hard to stick to and so  commonly trotted out that I think its hard to believe too. But when you've done a comparative test (not recommended, I just couldn't be bothered to keep lifting glass to mouth one week), it makes a whoppingly huge difference to how you feel, how quickly you recover, and not least to point no. 3.

5. Find a hobby. Lying around staring at duvets does not count. When I couldn't work as much as I wanted to, I decided instead to invest in my future. Yes, my cooking skills are now such that I have significantly increased my value in the current wife market. I am a hot commodity and the one who has me will be making a sound investment. I am also very adept at laundry and cleaning kitchens, but I draw the line at ironing.

6. I'm not going to bang on about eating right, but I'm sure it has helped me recover from each treatment better. And it's pretty logical too since chemo is bombarding your body with serious toxins. On my last go, there was an older man in with his family, who brought McDonald's for him to eat while he was being chemo'd. I sound hideously judgemental, but I feel that's like shutting a hypothermia patient in a walk in freezer, its not really helping matters is it?..

7. Plan Nice Things is not as easy as it should be when your body is traitorous and unpredictable. So this point is a two-parter, along with Keep A Diary. Write how you feel on each day so you'll get to a point where you know that on day 6 of your cycle you'll be able to stay awake past 19.30 and on day 3 eat spag bog safely without ruining it yourself for the next 5 years. Or ask your mum how you're going to feel on day 3 because after a couple of cycles you couldn't be bothered to keep a diary, so she knows better. I sheepishly still think its good advice though.

8. Don't be lazy. If there was ever an excuse for laziness, this is it, but I found that laziness and boredom are quite happy together, so if you do work on one it slightly alleviates the other. Also, it helps keep your body healthier than not. Also Jane Tomlinson ran a bloody half marathon 10 days after finishing chemo, so a little bit of pilates in front of the TV is not too much to ask is it? I chose pilates because it makes you breathe properly - something that surprisingly goes out the window when you've got things to worry/stress/be shocked about. Also it's a bit harder than yoga, but not as hard as 'proper' exercise so I feel good about myself without having to sweat. Always love an easier option.

9. This may be a bit obvious, but it's not as bad as you think it's going to be. I was told this by a patient having her final treatment when I was having my first. She said she thought it was going to be 10/10 bad, but it was only 5/10. Now that I'm in her position, I'd say it got up to about 7/10 for me, but she was still a lot more right than My Sisters Keeper, so I hope its nice to hear it from me too.

So, once my chemo connoisseur body has decided to finally let go of this delectable experience, I can start getting ready for the next bit, where I start all over again a 100% nervous novice. Any advice gratefully received...

Thursday, 26 May 2011

I really really do love lipstick

It has taken me 31 years, a bit of life laundering, soul searching and boyfriend lecturing (him to me), to recently come to the conclusion that I am Too Nice. This sounds like an egotistical credit to bestow upon myself, but actually, if it is a compliment, I take it as a back handed one. Thanks very much, me.

Nice is a credit, Too Nice is a pain in the bum, and in several instances has seen me fail spectacularly in arguments, apologise for complaining, which usually renders the complaint completely redundant, see the best in people I really shouldn't, and in one instance get so uncomfortable about telling off a thieving intern, that I set up a scenario where she could explain her behavior away as a misunderstanding. And she STILL quit without notice and wrote in to complain that she couldn't learn from me as I obviously didn't like her. The little criminal witch. (I reverted to Twitter advice to find the nicest mean name here btw).

It was about then I decided to adopt a Hilary Alexander approach to work and life in general. My prop was an imaginary T-shirt, invisibly printed with 'What Would Hilary Alexander Do?' Which I would refer to in times of too-niceness. For those who don't know, Hilary is a renowned, respected, revered and feared fashion journalist. No intern would dare steal from her cupboard in the first place let alone survive her wrath mentally unscathed enough to write a letter about it.

Turns out an imaginary T-shirt wasn't quite enough to cure my condition, so I find myself still weak in the face of confrontation and agonizing over upsetting someone who upsets me to this day. Sometimes someone has to intervene - I am lucky to have a slightly unhinged father and boyfriend back up team, so when I was worried about offending my doctors by asking for a second opinion (you see? Ludicrous...), they helped me see the light, and yes, they turn it on for me at times too.

Since starting this blog I've had people actually and funnily enough, asking me What Would Sophie Beresiner Do? This is an eye-opening turn up for the books. Who needs Hilary? (well, me still in certain situations), but I'm pretty sure she wouldn't know how to deal with a reader worrying about how she will carry off her decision to be bald and proud, or another one wanting advice on how to get her mum back to her old self.

I have a universally appropriate answer too, and yes, it might seem superficial, or convenient even for the purposes of a beauty (ish) blog, but nevertheless it is my life philosophy. And I have a 2:1 in Philosophy, so I am qualified to bestow my knowledge upon you. Ready?... Wear Bright Lipstick

That is What Sophie Would Do. It sounds like a superficial action, rather than an appropriate reaction, but bear with me.

On the Outside
It is the truth in the face of baldness. Even Caroline Barnes said so - if you've nothing else to do, do your lips. No eyelashes? Do bright lips instead. Some eyelashes? No brows? Wig? Synthetic hair? Shaved? All gone? Sill, do bright lips. Bald and Proud? Sounds like you don't really need too much advice, since this is a marvelous and admirable approach, but since you asked reader, I would say it again. Wear Bright Lipstick. For one it makes you stand out from the generic cancer s/s 2011 look. For another it makes you look confident and breezy and like you're still very much a girl in there, for another, it's just hot and happy-making (you know my stance on colourful things by now), and face-lifting. In a radiant rather than surgical way.

On The Inside
I'm sure there are studies on the uplifting or confidence boosting properties of lipstick. I am not nerd or inclined enough to go there, but life experience has taught me that I do feel different with it on. Like sh!t hot heels or a serious blowdry - I could pretty much stand up to Colonel Gaddafi with my hair voluminous and bouncy. I would even go so far as to prescribe it for cheering purposes, to mums needing to revert back to old selves. Or me needing something different to look at in the mirror while I'm stuck inside. Again. (Only 5 more days till my nutropenic worries are over!). Its just a stupidly easy way to make a big effort, and that will make you and anyone looking at you appreciative of that fact as well.

What I'm getting at is maybe 'Wear Bright Lipstick!' wouldn't have helped with the criminal intern, but if a power suit (or an imaginary printed tshirt) can make you do better business, I bet a power lipstick can too.
And the boys like it, lets not forget that...

My picks:

Dior Rouge Dior in 752 Red Premier
This is my trademark, iconic, one lipstick true love that I've trotted out countless times in Q&A's and recommendations since I discovered it about 5 years ago. So much so, that I just googled 'when was Dior Red Premier launched?  and my own beauty blog came up at no. 3.

Topshop Lipstick in Ooh La La
Matte is only the way to do this colour - if its shiny it'll look a bit 80's - so the Topshop velvety corally blush is perfect. And its bright enough to adhere to my philosophy, but not so much so that you have to keep checking your chin for lip imprints all day. Is it just me who does that?

YSL Rouge Pur Couture lipstick in 13
This is what your gran would have worn if she was the foxiest lady at the tea dance. I know it's not so glamorous linking Granny's and lippy, but lipstick was born and done best back then. Basically it's a classic but on Botox and Restylane and with hair extensions.

No. 7 Stay Perfect Lipstick in Gay Geranium
Universally flattering, tan enhancing, giggle inducing (I love the name) and very current - coral is the lipstick buzz of the summer you know.

Mac Lipstick in All Styled Up (I will start a petition to bring the Ltd Ed back, but in the meantime, Pink Nouveau is close)
The ultimate baby pink that isn't so baby it makes your lips disappear into 1963, nor is it too bubblegum for a 31 year old to pull off. And you can wear it every day without looking like a pariah. Red can do that to you sometimes. A perfect hybrid that goes very nicely with ginger hair too.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Life Laundry

I apologise in advance if this post is a bit meh, but it comes after 4.5 hours of staring at a duvet.

Post chemo is a very unproductive time. If you could call watching Hollyoaks productive, I would be happy to account for that, but nope, my body and brain doesn't even want to occupy itself to that level.

I have been trying to explain it to my mum, who has been watching me shuffle from bed to sofa to bed to sofa with a book in my hands, never opening or engaging in said book. The most I can manage is an adolescent 'I'm BORED', to which her lively suggestions of a game of cards or a video rental (the language we still use in Claygate) are met with 'mmmnno'. I suppose it's a bit like when you're having trouble concentrating on a book, and you keep reading the same line over and over again. But applied to everything. And permanently.

So I sincerely apologise, but when I can't even be bothered to snooze, a thought-provoking and practical post on my current beauty handling is somewhat unlikely. Also, I have been wearing the same t shirt for 6 days so 'beauty' doesn't really come into it.

When not duvet gazing I tend to compose things in my head -sign of madness? From a half arsed I'm All Better party speech (I didn't plan on making one, and the fragmented imaginary thing I just came up with made me well up, so I think It's safe to say I won't), to an impending text message, to future blog posts. I imagine them word for word, like a loon, till I have about 5 in my chemo brain memory bank. Which is about as reliable as Northern Rock, so really, what is the point of that? Trust me, they would have won me awards though. Promise...

What I have managed to do this week is a grow a little more head fluff, allocated a notebook to my party planning (so far I have written *yawn* in it) and washed my ginger wig, in preparation for my post chemo re-emergence into the real world. I'm thinking this will be a more full time occupation now, this living of life business. I'm taking it slowly, since I still feel wobbly to say the least, but a fresh head of not-my-hair seems like a good place to start.

By the way fellow wig wearers. It's not the easiest thing in the world to wash a wig. Ok your triceps don't ache from reaching over your own head, but there are other muscles involved as well as brain function that doesn't come so naturally. Not least the weirdness of dealing with a heavy, wet, dead-looking thing. Lucky for me I am a horror movie fan, but the sight of this on your bathroom floor (you need places to rest it while you squeeze out shampoo - that doesn't happen with your own hair) is not so happy for DadJokes.

Since most mums didn't teach us wig washing during the normal pubescent run down of lady-stuff-for-later-life, here is a quick tutorial:

*Use wig appropriate products. American Dream have their own range, which I didn't have to hand, so I used a colour protecting gentle shampoo from Aveda.

*If you're like me, and a bit reluctant to do this regularly, (I know, I know), there will be more product and dirt to wash out, but you don't need to worry about scalp or grease or dandruff or any other delightful real hair issues. Result! I tend to focus on smelling nice.

*Don't over rub. It'll take longer to get the whole thing soapy (so much dirt!) so start at the crown and keep rinsing (I dunk, it's easier) and re-soaping till the whole thing is covered. Then sort of knead it like dough instead of vigorously scrubbing. The head is a useful foundation for scrubbing. You'll find lack of head will lead you to scrub difficulties.

*Condition how you like, you don't need to worry about lank roots, so you can go root to tip for very shiny hair. I still stick to ends only though, it's the best way to get good texture in the roots for easier styling.

*Rinse it to death, comb through with a brush (you can be quite brutal if you have a good wig. Just grip the hair in a fist above a knot, so you're not yanking at the roots while you yank at the knot.

*Dry inside out. Preferably over something head shaped. I used a colander on top of a hairdryer stand. No styling products, just a blast with the dryer and a phone call to Katie or Claire to come round. I propose a cuppa and catch up. I prepare my curling tongs and surf spray. Poor fools.

I'm hoping I won't have to do this too many more times since every morning I have a slightly darker fluffier halo going on in my backlit bedroom mirror. The effect, with no lashes or brows, is quite spooky but it's promising. Which is all I need for now.

Now, where was I? Ah yes, not watching Hollyoaks or writing a text. Must get back...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Graduation Day

This is officially my last post as a Chemo Patient. I'm writing from my usual spot in the chemo suite, my port-a-cath (port-a-loo as my dad seems to genuinely think it is called) hooked up to my last dose of Docetaxyl, and I feel, well, a bit weird.

In December when this whole thing started I flicked through half of my new year diary and wrote 'LAST CHEMO!!!' in today's entry. At the time it felt like an eternity away, but here I am being looked after by 3 lovely nurses who have become people I look forward to seeing, for the last time. This kind of makes me sad. As does the fact that, although a horrible one, I'm in a routine, a programme. A long, uncomfortable, very necessary one where I do what I'm told and let other people look after my best interests. A bit like university in fact. And lo and behold I felt funny on that graduation day too. It's something about being chucked out into the world to work things out on my own. 6 months of chemo feels like a really long time, with surgery as something to think about afterwards. Now surgery is something to think about next, and this too is tingeing my graduation day with trepidation.

Nse and Pat x

I will also miss being the only girl in the chemo suite with an actual entourage. I'm sure the other patients must think I'm either a minor celebrity or really, really pathetic. But I cannot shake off my team of mother, father, boyfriend and lovely friend, all crowding round my bed (and I get a bed! Looks even worse...) and regaling me with stories of Bridge hands (Parents), illegally painting my nails (Claire), or running around fetching me water and filling prescriptions (Dadjokes). Still, one step closer to my I'm All Better party, no more nutropenic/hospitalisation fear and no more jabbing myself in the stomach with needles.

For some reason I look exceptionally yellow today. This happens every so often, the Jaundiced look. I'm guessing its something to do with my liver being assaulted by serious toxins on a regular basis, but I am no doctor. I can only tell when I am photographed next to other people and I go 'eurgh I look so yellow' and they always go 'yes you do.' From a beauty perspective, nope, ain't nothing doing. So my advice is this: use a processing app on your computer or iphone and tweak the colours artfully, so digital documentation of jaundice day will be forever altered in history. Easy, makeup-free, mirror-free and effort-free beauty editor advice there...

Some Retrospective Highlights (I never thought highlights would be possible within a chemo regime, I was wrong).

Elton John
This is what myself and my entourage call a particularly grumpy fellow patient who doesn't seem to realise that people are trying to help her. I really shouldn't judge, or nickname, but I find my highlights where I can - and she is unintentionally quite funny. She seems to be taking her fear out on her nurses, which is understandable but a bit inappropriate also. Her 'do, spectacles and attitude have the Elton John about them (I should mention here that I am one of his biggest fans, so I'm not being as mean as I sound), to the point where she exclaimed loudly that she refused to be treated with all these other people, then sat behind a curtain next to my bed swearing and complaining that who am I to get a bed when she should have one. You see? She even walked out that day. My friend Alex remarked that her cancer must be an aggressive one. boom boom. (sorry)

my lovely mum
Its bound to happen in these here situations, but I'm so happy to see my parents smiling faces every three weeks. What with me being in North London, my family in Surrey, I didn't hang out them as much as I would have liked. Now they drive up every chemo day, which takes them around 2 hours each way, and stay the whole time just to keep me company. I owe them one. Not least for petrol money and hospital parking...

Familiar Faces
It took a good few sessions, but aside from the nurses, I also have some regular 'hello, how are you's? and particularly love seeing my bed fellow, Jonny, (not literally, he has the 2nd of the two beds in the suite, so we have that in common), who seems to be youngish like me and is so smiley and cute that he makes me feel better about being where I am. And he says things like 'keep at it girl' and 'girl, you look great today' (always a winner).

I've had a few emails from readers worrying about their chemo sessions, but believe me when I say, actual chemo day is the nicest day of the 3 week cycle. Ok, it hurts for a second going in, but that's the worst thing about it. Contrary to Hollywood belief, there's no nausea while you're there, there's free sandwiches and tea, and its akin to a much needed bikini wax in the slight-pain-for-ultimate-good sense, so that you feel comforted to be physically helping the situation along.

Pat, Sacha, and Nse
My wonderful regular chemo nurses who should win awards for fabulous bedside manner, patience (with Elton John types), calming influence and multi-tasking. I will miss them.
Run Team Look, Run

While I'm hooked up here, there are a load of my friends anti-chaffing themselves and lining up to run 5k for the Race For Life today. I think I would actually rather be having chemo than doing that, so bobble hats off to them, especially the Look ladies. Later next month will be the turn of The Communication Store PR company, who have been keeping me up to date with their fundraising efforts including a bake sale, aww. They tell me I inspired them to do it, so the fact I got west London's most glamorous office girls out of their pleated midi skirts and into some pink Lycra is enough to take the edge off the graduation trepidation and make me feel proud of me, them, Team Look and everyone else doing it today.

In a few more weeks the more hardcore of my band of charity nuts will doubling their efforts and sweating for 10k around Blackheath. This is team Katie Selby, led by Katie, with even one or two celeb runners thrown in for good measure. I bet the Lycra will be luxurious among this team.

Please sponsor one or all three teams here, its for the most great of good causes, and if you knew how loathe the fashion industry were to wear trainers for an entire day, you would realise the importance of their sacrifice and dig deep immediately.

Team Look

Team Selby

Team Communication Store
TBC - I'll update this when they've stopped baking and organised a justgiving page!

Which they've done already! Running in July, so plenty of donating time, at

Right, I'm off to toast my non-chemo patient, graduated with honours status, with some chicken broth and GCSF injections, tra la la...

First ever chemo day, complete with post-bawling puffiness crossed with I Am Dead Brave face. Fooling anyone? er, no

p.s. OK, ok, as requested: My dad's ever present and outlandish efforts to make me laugh... (they work too)

Monday, 16 May 2011

A Lesson In Lashes

According to DadJokes I am somewhat obsessed with wig talk and eyelash talk. He's worried about how many times I can post about these two things without boring all of womankind. This is partly because he is male, partly because he has the luxury of his own hair and eyelashes, and yes, could partly be true. But since he is right about my level of obsession, I'm guessing there are others out there who will think about these two appearance altering things about as much as I do.

At the moment my morning routine starts with an eyelid inspection. I'm somewhere between confused and frustrated at how showy my head hairs are, while the eyelashes are about as forthcoming as Cliff Richard at a swingers party. Surely hair is hair?

So, while its reappearance remains so selective, I need more and more help in trying to eek out some eyelash. Mascara is not my friend these days, I still insist on attempting it every day, but that does more to highlight how pathetic my collection is rather than make me look like I have some. I have developed extreme lash envy and spend several of my working hours gazing at Katie's and thinking she has something of the Friesian about her. In a lash sense only.

I have turned to the experts, namely top makeup artist Caroline Barnes. You might know her from those Max Factor makeover ads on TV, but she also happens to be long term contributor and supporter of LGFB, a lovely lady and colleague of mine (we've shot together and share an agent), and a practiced expert in knowing how to make Cliff Richard lashes look more like Friesian ones. So over to her...

I started working with LGFB in 2004, at the time I was working with countless celebrities and although I adored it, I wanted to do something to help give people a lift. I've done everything from film their Confidence Kit DVD, to join in with the actual workshops, where I soon realised that actually all the girls wanted to do was have fun and chat about make-up and beauty, which is easy for me! So I know that it can feel like a great loss when you loose your eyelashes as it changes the whole shape and look of your eyes.

Lash Loss
We'll start with the extreme end of the scale. If you loose all your lashes, unfortunately you'll struggle to wear false ones. This is because the false lash needs the support of a rooted lash to stay in place otherwise they'll just end up bending down over your lids and look very unnatural. Disappointing I know, but a wash of a neutral shadow around your lid and lower lashes does works a treat.

Your eyes can become more sensitive to light so might run more than usual. A waterproof liner like the new Max Factor Liquid Line Effect or the YSL waterproof liner can look fabulous, just ensure its softly blended around the eye so it doesn't look too hard - this will have the opposite effect and make your eyes look piggy. Its not lashes I know, but at least from a distance your eyes are framed.

On a couple of my clients we had great fun painting in very fine lashes on the lower lash line. Use a fine angled brush, think of Twiggy in her hey-day and paint delicately! In the outer corner angle them towards your hairline then gradually angle them down, with a bit of practise they can look fabulous

Cream eyeshadows can also be really flattering as the reflect the light and generally look softer on the skin. If the skin around your eyes is more sensitive, this could be a gentler option for you. Try Clinique Quick Eyes, (my favourite colour is Sea Shell), Benefit Creaseless or Estee Lauder Double Wear Cream Eyeshadow.

Some Lashes
If your lashes are hanging in but just very fine you can add individual lashes, which look really natural. Get them in brown if you're pale skinned and black if you have dark hair.
If you're going trough chemo you might find you're more sensitive to things that you weren't before, so please test the glue out first - it's only latex so it'll peel of, but better to get a reaction on your inner arm than your poor eyelid!

If you fancy or find it easier to use a strip lash, opt for the finest around. By this I mean the thread which links the lashes together needs to be super fine and the lashes delicate. You don't want to weaken old or especially new hairs. I recommend Ardell fashion Lashes in 110 or Eyelure Natralities in 020.

Duo adhesive is the best glue to use, and gentle removal of the lashes in essential, because you need to nurture your existing lashes. Use an oil based remover so they slide off easily, try Mac Cleanse off Oil. If you don't want something so oily, try Lancome Bi-Facil eye make-up remover. It's the one I use at work and is very gentle for sensitive eyes, but also very effective.

The Other Side

When you do have new lashes the best mascara to invest in is one that lengthens, rather than volumises. You'll be tempted to opt for the latter, but it would only give you cloggy stumps as your lashes will be fine initially, and this type of mascara is far too heavy. Try Max Factor Lash Extension Effect, it's perfect to subtly extend the lashes. Again if you have watery eyes syndrome opt for a waterproof option with one of the above removers.

Also don't forget you have other features on your face to highlight, and luckily coloured lipsticks are bang on trend at the moment! Wearing a brand new bright lippy will give you added confidence and take the main focus away from your eyes. This is such a simple way to add glamour to your look without too much stress or aggravation to your eyes.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Trend On Trial

You can blame for my having to post this post twice. They had some issues last week and deleted a lot of content, including this bit, which I luckily had on email since I subscribe to myself. (A bit like Mariah Carey listening to her own songs in the birthing room, I know, but it was to test my subscribe button, I promise!) So, don't get too excited with this in your inbox - you've heard it all before...

Moschino S/S 2011

So They're saying headscarves are big this season. I'm not entirely sure 'they' had my look in mind, mind. More beachy blonde ends hanging gloriously around the shoulders. Or an is-it a-scarf, is-it-a-turban hybrid, worn 1940's rich-ish housewife style, accessorising the hair, rather than hiding a lack of it. If I worked for a weekly fashion magazine I might coin a suitable hybrid name for this new season trend. A 'scurban' or a 'turbarf'. Oh, wait...

Although I politely lied to my oncologist, and assured her that I would indeed be a glamorous headscarf kind of a patient, I managed to hold out until April before I actually resorted to one. The problem is the weather. Like a heavily pregnant lady who didn't factor in extreme seasonal discomfort when planning her baby, I have ended up catching some summer in my hair-free period. This is not ideal.

The woolly bobble hats are not only sweltering at this time of year, they're also decidedly odd when paired with a vest and shorts to answer the door or pop to the corner shop. This leaves me with wig or nothing. The first option is preferable, but basically as hot as a woolly hat. Plus, I'm reluctant to wear them unless the occasion really requires it. Mostly because I don't want to wash and re-style. You get used to every day being a Good Hair Day with a wig, so the thought of a bad one, as a result of my bad blow-dry job (careful), is enough to send me to M&S in a headscarf.

I thought my parents local Weybridge branch could handle seeing me as my be-scarved alter ego, and with my mum as buffer, I felt ok (ish) about wandering the aisles in one of her floral numbers. Up until I opened the front door and grabbed my dads Fedora because I wasn't feeling quite as confident as I'd hoped. Yes I know, mum's scarf, dad's hat, maybe not the ideal attire for my first wigless venture, but circumstance meant I had no choice but to sport this unusual combo which, I'll be honest, made me look like a very gentle alternative gansta.

Still, the prospect of actual, tangible clothes shopping - rather than the digital variety - rendered me oblivious to any kind of public reaction, so I happily trotted round the shop, putting various things I would never normally look at into my basket. It wasn't until we got back to the car that my 'well that went well I thought!' was answered with 'people were looking at you funny' by my mum.

I'm thinking it's hard to gauge if this was a reaction to me being a young woman who obviously has no hair, (this is exactly my sticking point with headscarves) or to the ridiculous 50 Cent style hat and scarf. Or 'Haarf'.

Either way, the outing proved my initial hypothesis was correct. I don't like the headscarf look. It's like a neon sign with arrows pointing to my crown saying: '!!!this person has cancer!!!' with all those exclamation marks for emphasis.

I know this isn't the case for everyone, I appreciate they're easier, cheaper and more comfortable than a wig, but I think I'll take a slightly sweaty head over another appearance as Reggie Kray's not so wayward distant cousin. Granted on this occasion I went a 
bit wayward, sartorially speaking, but I'm still hoping I'll have enough of my own hair by the time real summer kicks in to be able to cast aside my hot-hair-hats (that's wigs btw), and not have to resort to scarfing it again. At least till I have bits sticking out the bottom that is.

But this being a practical blog, and having been asked for tips several times by some of you, here are my objective, unbiased ones:

Jokes aside this is a big trend this season, and searching for catwalk shots to illustrate the Scurban, I found tons of shows who did do the whole hog cancer patient, hair hidden look. Hermes, Issa, Jason Wu, and Loewe to name just a few, (Lacoste even did a Fedora - my Dad is so on trend right now). Some with a  little more frivolity than others: 
Moncler Gamme Rouge S/S 2011

Get a rectangle shape, rather than a square, which you'll be tempted to fold in half diagonally and wear granny style with a little knot at the back. A rectangle however can be wrapped around the back and tied at the front, so you get a bit of interest there instead. It looks younger, distracts from the extreme spam effect and bows are my favourite thing and trademark in my work as a stylist, so one at the front is always going to win over for me.

Steer away from plain designs, a pattern will break up the landscape as it were, and give the illusion of a bit less head on show. You will see what I mean when you compare both. Also, it will liven up your day, and that's never a bad thing.                                                         

Finally, stick to natural fabrics like cotton and linen so your head can breathe, no polyester, ever. Otherwise you may as well take my grumpy stance and sweat it out in a hair hat.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Surprise Visitor

While I'm waiting for my white blood cells to grow a pair (metaphorically and literally also, in which case more than a pair would be even better thanks), I've noticed an increase in several homely occurrences.

1: Cat puking incidents.
Are they allergic to me? Is there in fact no change but I don't discover it if I'm not there to witness. In which case where is it? Not sure I want to think about that too much...

2: Teenage Angst.
This is because of all the extra vapid thinking time I suppose. But no decision goes unscathed. example: friends round last night. Thai delivery or Busaba take out? (Some of you may have experienced the thrilling debate on Twitter). The decision lay with me, it took no less than 8 tweets, 1 DM, and 9 text messages, before I decided that someone else had better make the decision.

3: Unexpected Visitors.
Ah, now, herein lies the problem. I'm not great with these at the best of times. Living in London arouses suspicion when the buzzer goes unexpectedly - Jehovah's Witnesses? Crazed murderers? Ex-boyfriends in which case this outfit will not do and I don't have makeup on.

But bald and in PJ's at 3pm? Shuddering nightmare... DadJokes has been fielding neighbourly requests for tin openers, or ASOS couriers, but he does have to go to work too.  Normally I ignore the door, but in the case of (I later discovered) new neighbour Steve from upstairs, I could be seen doing chores through the window and my TV could be heard in the living room, so I had no choice but to put on trusted bobble hat and open door. Sweaty from chores, zero makeup, or hair obviously, and in said woolly hat in 26 degrees. And I had to sort of slouch my shoulders forward to try and minimise the zero-bra-thin-tshirt-factor. This situation was uncomfortable to say the least. Nice guy though...

So, I have developed, with the help of my trusty makeup and hours of trial and error, a 'Ready For Knocks' trick, that basically means I look much less, well, cancerous, but doesn't involve the usual mascara on lashes battle (lashes? ha!), and actually doesn't even look like I'm wearing makeup. Its like Jennifer Anniston for bald people. And I can even be bothered to do it everyday, just in case, which is really saying something.

So here's where I'm at: Lash count, maybe 4 or 5 stubs on the top lid. Which buckle under the gargantuan weight of mascara.
Brow count: precisely 3 on one, 2 on the other. Long ones too. Ridiculous.

Here's what I'm doing.
Skin: Nothing. I'm staying in all day, if there's one bonus to that its letting my skin have days off makeup. This is a no makeup makeup remember...

Brows: I use Lancome Le Crayon Sourcils Pro in Brun Cuvre, just because its more wishy washy than my usual going out Dior one, so I don't have to be precise, just scribble it on and brush it through and then sort of dot it with my fingers so it looks worn in. I'm not wearing other makeup basically, so properly 'done' brows would look weird. But here's the good bit. Since I have no natural shape to follow, I can go Kylie and give myself a mini face lift with a slight over-arch. I discovered the need after dinner with my mum when she said I looked angry with no eyebrows. Strange but true. (if you need a tip, mine is don't literally draw an arch, I normally do a straight diagonal line up, then a straight line down, with a 3:1 length ratio, just make the 'up' line ever so slightly longer for a higher arch). So, eye-lifting, happy-looking arch in place...

Eyes: I'm using Topshop Bold Liner in Graphite, it's ltd ed, but 'London' by Nars is close, which is a foggy grey. I reckon this works on any skin or hair colour, black or brown is too much with no other makeup, this is the colour of a shadow, which is perfect. Draw a line inside the lower lash line, and then, and this is a bit tricky, inside the top one too. Drawing along lash line looks like eyeshadow, but inside just does a weird thing to define your eyes but not look like makeup. It's genius, even though I say so myself, which yes, does make me a genius...

That's it. 30 seconds (bet Jennifer Anniston takes longer), doesn't need makeup remover to come off even, and lasts a whole day of sitting around waiting for knocks at doors.

Now I have a few weeks worth of fluffy head too, this trick is making me feel OK to ditch the bobble hat for the summer. Sort of. Wig angel Claire is coming round tonight with "Two special guests. Ooo who could they be...?" So I'm ready; no makeup makeup on, actual clothes in place of PJ's and my hat, on standby, next to the front door. They'd better be worth the extra laundry...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Parked Life

I've not been able to write this post before now since I've been holding my breath for the great Hospital Avoidance Experiment to work out. The lack of oxygen has rendered me incapable. I'll explain.

Since my move to the f*@!*&g Docetaxyl I've ended up in A&E on exactly the 7th day of each chemo cycle, with a high temperature - which basically is bad news if you have low white blood cells, since temperature = sign of infection, which in some round about, soul destroying, chemo-induced, hospital stay way, means risk of septicemia.

So you have to take all the precautions, have a TUBE put in your VEIN, just in case you might need antibiotics intravenously, (pathetic I may sound, but did I mention before all this I've never had so much as a filling?), have everything you can have tested tested, stay in an 'infection room' in the A&E, which is closed, cold, more fluorescent lit than all the other cubicles, and hope for a bed on a ward when you're inevitably admitted, which I always am, for 3 days. Although the doctors like to break it to me hard-ly with 'yep, nutropenic (which means zero white blood cells), hopefully you'll be out after a week.' Which always makes me call my mum going 'I'm fine (*crying*), don't worry (*sobs*), I just have to be in this room for a week (*wails*).' - But that's mostly because I've already been up for 24/25 hours, since the temperature always strikes at night, like an inconvenient, hot burglar, burglarizing my nice night in my own bed. Add in the inedible food - literally for me since there is no such word as 'healthy' in the Whittington catering code, the solitary confinement, and assisted showers, and Septicemia is suddenly a not so ugly option.
Nevertheless, I would like to hang onto whatever health and body parts I am able, so with trepidation and various avoidance techniques to plan, my day 7 approached, passed, I am, writing this post, in gorgeous wonderful early morning sun coming through my OWN living room window, thank you very much ladies and gentlemen!

Here are my new rules:
Injections to boost my white blood cells, (self administered these days - see how far I've come from my never-even-a-filling stance?) - increased from 5 days to 7, starting 3 days early.

Bone marrow soup. This sounds disgusting, but is actually just glorified chicken stock. Poach the whole thing in slowcooker with carrots, celery, bones, skin etc. so the marrow from the bones gets into the broth you later drink. My new nurse Ivy told me it was a good idea, since bone marrow is where you produce your own white blood cells, so an increased intake makes sense. Even from a chicken? Who cares...

Even more Life Mel honey

And this one - the hard one - forced house arrest. Yep, I now have to avoid all places for two weeks, till my nutropenic stint is over, just in case I've unwittingly been picking up work germs or bus germs or tree germs. If you feel you know me even a little bit by now you will realise this is god awful. I'm so bored I've gone beyond bored to the point where I even resent the TV, like an irritating in-my-pocket husband who won't leave me alone. Not even TOWIE can motivate me to switch it on. And yes, The Outnet hasn't seen the security code of my credit card for some time now. This is a state of emergency.

My flat is not equipped for protective custody. I fantasise about DadJokes romancing me with boxes of Scrabble and Monopoly, gift wrapped in a huge shiny red bow, or laying on a city garden picnic (i.e sitting in our minuscule concrete courtyard) with organic strawberries and veggie cupcakes. Problem is, these things are no fun for one, and even if they were I'm not allowed to the shops to get the required components. Instead I have resorted to staring at my laptop straining for things to Google. "Sarah Burton on Ebay" was a particular highlight. No results mind...

Thank god for mums, cats and nail varnish. The former has moved into my spare room for 3 days, kept me entertained with gardening (while I watch), rudimentary rules of Bridge (yes really), and excellent mum-type chats. The cats are just never ending sources of hilarity and softness, and nail varnish can be removed and replaced a countless number of times to make me feel fresh and prettified all over again. Even if my nails are only accessorising the latest in waffly dressing gowns, and my feline companions can't even register 'pink' let alone appreciate it.

Still, complainy I may sound, but it is worth the slow softening of my brain cells to not be in the hospital right now. Plus I never get those red 'you've missed the postman so you now queue for a week at the post office' cards anymore. I'm like a reformed Joey Barton.

And next week I get double, no, triple excitement at the which-outfit/lipstick-conundrum, although my 'cost per wear' ratio is really not working out these days. Oh well, the global economic issue can wait, I have more pressing matters at hand. Google is calling me. 'Can cats appreciate pink?'