Educational Series: Treatment and Changes

How We View Ourselves

Beauty Bus Foundation recently partnered with weSPARK Cancer Support Center to lead a conversation about all the changes that accompany cancer treatment. Beauty Professional Elena Vasquez and weSPARK therapist Leila de Costa led the discussion.

While each individual’s journey is different, cancer treatment can frequently cause changes to hair, skin and nails. In this educational seminar, our experts led a discussion of physical, emotional, and mental strategies to help patients prepare and embrace these changes through treatment and beyond.

The Emotional Impact of Treatment

Many factors contribute to the maelstrom of emotions that can follow chemo. Heightened emotions may be a direct side effect of chemotherapy, or may result from the physical or emotional taxation that accompanies treatment. Undergoing treatments can recall feelings of loss and longing for the familiar aspects of life before a diagnosis, triggering strong emotional reactions. If you are experiencing high emotions after treatment, try to take a deep breath and reflect. What type of emotions are involved? Was there a trigger? How do you feel after releasing your emotions?

Recommendation: Feel and distract your emotions in a pendulating manner. Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t dwell for too long. Allow yourself to feel and process your complex emotional reactions, then allow yourself to focus on more lighthearted diversions. Cycle through deep feeling and uplifting diversion without becoming mired in either state. This allows fears and anxieties to be aired without becoming overwhelming.

Emotional Self-Care

When the body undergoes periods of high-stress, increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, are released into the bloodstream, altering immune system responses and suppressing the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. Prolonged experience of stress can be highly detrimental to health, beyond existing medical conditions, so help your body out and take a load off!

Recommendation: Try yoga, deep breathing, or meditation exercises to learn useful strategies to reduce stress. Meditation needn't put you to sleep! Use your quiet reflection time to treat yourself with a favored beauty routine. You look best when you feel best - don't let anxieties over appearance contribute to daily stress!

Affected Skin from Chemotherapy and Radiation

Side effects of chemotherapy can be cumulative, and skin care routines are likely to change multiple times over the course of treatment. Many individuals discover a "new normal" after treatment, and adjust their standard daily routines correspondingly moving forward.

Recommendation: Solutions for affected skin may not be all-encompassing. Rather, micro-adjustments to daily skincare may be most effective. Remain mindful of how your skin looks and feels throughout treatment. If troubles arise, consider all the factors that may be affecting your body, both internal and external. The list may be quite diverse, including fabrics worn, type of laundry detergent used, how you sit, what you eat, and your surrounding environment. Change one thing at a time and see how your body responds, until you are able to identify the irritant.

Hair Loss

“Makes getting ready really easy.” Hair follicles are highly responsive to hormonal changes and naturally transition through many phases over the course of a lifetime. After treatment, hair may regrow with completely different texture or color, and may grow slowly or quickly.

Recommendation: When approaching hair regrowth, it’s all about strengthening and management. Focus on strengthening hair to promote healthy regrowth, and consider what types of haircuts and styles you’re comfortable wearing as your hair grows out.

A Note on Eyebrows and Eyelashes

Mascara can be worn if desired — just be sure to be carefully remove product and do not be abrasive or add more friction than necessary, so as not to cause irritation or damage. It’s best practice to choose natural products that are more gentle when in use.

It’s great to learn how to draw your brows, but what if there’s no hair left there? New makeup routines are all about trial and error. New shapes, new products, maybe even new colors! This is the time to try something new, if you like. Stencils can be helpful for choosing a shape and practicing application. Find what’s make you feel comfortable and then practice, practice, practice! If you still have your brows, it’s a good idea to take a picture for future reference.

To Google or Not to Google?
For some information is empowering. For others it may just be overwhelming. What is the mental model you need to conquer your treatments? It’s important to be focused and disciplined on what thoughts you entertain and who you listen to.

Recommendation: If it doesn’t make you feel better, don’t do it. Ask a trusted friend or relative to evaluate how beneficial personal research will be for you, if you're uncertain whether you want to investigate online resources. Always remember when searching the web to check for a legitimate source, and don’t consider any one source to be the ultimate truth.

What about the Sun?

Soaking up the sunshine always feels nice, but it's important not to exceed the maximum 10-minute exposure in direct sunlight. Many medications can increase photo-sensitivity and indirect exposure to UV rays can come in many unrecognized forms. 

Recommendation: It’s best to take precautions whenever adventuring outside: apply sunscreen throughout the day, stay in shaded areas, and bring clothing for protection. NEVER use tanning beds! Topical self-tanners are a safer option, but be sure to avoid those with chemicals or byproducts that continuously build up on the skin. Always consult your medical care professionals if you are unsure what's best for you!

Thanks to this wonderful group at weSPARK Cancer Support Community for being such thoughtful and kind participants!

Thanks to this wonderful group at weSPARK Cancer Support Community for being such thoughtful and kind participants!

Change is the only constant as you move through treatment and into all new experiences beyond. A steady mind and heart can carry you through even the most unexpected. Our advice? Embrace the journey with patience, positivity, courage, and self-love!

What are your thought on these topics? Share your advice, questions, or comments below