So, you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and you are in shock. When it happened to me I felt surprised and confused. I didn’t think this was going to be one of my life experiences. I had no family history, no glaring symptoms. I wanted to ask my physician if he was sure he had the right results, if he was sure that was my name on the film.

As much as I wished it would be otherwise, the name was mine: I had breast cancer. I immediately thought about my young daughter, my family. How would they cope with this?  Then I thought about the side effects of treatment. All I knew at that time was the possibility of losing my hair.

My way of coping was to give myself a job.  I became determined to be proactive about my survival and recovery.  Almost immediately I began to think not just about my own journey but about those also getting this same news.

The Face in the Mirror

Most of my adult life I had worked in the entertainment industry as a make up artist. I knew how to make people look their best, and I began to think about how I could draw upon my life experience to do something positive. I did not know exactly what was coming but whatever it was, I wanted to find those answers that would help me look and feel the best I could while I fought my cancer.

Each person who finds themselves fighting cancer, either male or female, will have a unique path but there are a few things anyone can do to feel as though they have some control over how they look and feel while undergoing treatment.

First and foremost, nurture a positive outlook. Optimism and laughter carry great power. There is a mind-body connection that cannot be denied so use it, and surround yourself with others who can respect your attitude. I’m not saying you’ll never be blue or frustrated but don’t allow yourself to wallow in these emotions. After all, you certainly occasionally had these same emotions before your diagnosis.

Beyond a good mental attitude there are some simple physical steps you can take to make yourself feel like your best possible self. Of course everyone is familiar with the hair loss associated with chemotherapy, but you are going to notice your skin changing too.

It may become dry and sensitive. At one point I had a rash from head to toe!  I found out that is common, but no one had prepared me for a side effect like that. To care for your skin during treatment, make sure you moisturize, moisturize, moisturize, inside and out. Use skin care products made for sensitive skin, use sun screen that is gentle and unscented and make sure you do not neglect your ears and the top of your head. Protection from the sun is always important but becomes vital while undergoing cancer treatment.

Outside and Inside

If you have always had a good diet and exercise routine, keep it up. Exercise, eat healthy foods, and drink lots of water. Healthy, hydrated insides will be reflected on the outside. Take soothing baths; get yourself some big soft towels. Pamper your body; it is in the fight of its life.

If you wear make up, choose an emollient rich foundation. A cream foundation is more moisturizing so if you are accustomed to using a powder based foundation, try a cream instead.

Go natural with your nail care. Your hands and nails may suffer drying and cracking. I advise clipping your nails short and pushing your cuticles back after a hot shower or warm bath. Olive oil is great for softening cuticles. Buff your nails rather than use polish. Keep everything as natural as possible.

The human spirit is very precious and deserves nourishment. Being diagnosed with cancer is a challenging life experience but it is doable. Every day look in the mirror and think of one thing you like about your life and yourself. Voice it out loud. Ask yourself, “Am I doing what I want with this life?  Am I impacting others in a positive way? What small steps can I take that will lead me to be my best?”

Take walks, deep breaths, and smell the roses. Count your blessings and don’t hesitate to be the most attractive, powerful, positive cancer fighter that you can be! And stay tuned – I’ll be sharing easy make up tips you can use during and after treatment.

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Emmy award winning make up artist Jan Ping is a cancer survivor who devotes much of her time to raising awareness of the impact of cancer treatment on self image.