'Our fab makeover will help us beat cancer!'
Tuesday 14 October 2008
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, music PR executive Caroline Monk didn’t even consider the prospect of losing her life – but she was devastated at the prospect of losing her hair.
Looking like a ‘bald alien’ she dreaded looking in the mirror after her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes fell out and she was left feeling unfeminine and depressed, her body ravaged by chemotherapy.
So last year she set about helping other cancer sufferers by organising free pampering days – worth over £1,000 – where they were given their own designer wigs at Toni & Guy hair salons and made over with manicures, makeup sessions and even tattooed eyebrows by top makeup artists.
“When I was ill, there were days I felt so low because I looked so hideous and I would have jumped at the chance of being given a makeover,” says Caroline, 40.
“After writing a column in Closer about my illness I was inundated with letters and emails from cancer sufferers not worrying about dying but about how they looked.
Since its launch last year Caroline’s Campaign has helped dozens of women in Manchester, London, Birmingham and Leeds and Closer joined her last week in Sunderland where her team of volunteers gave dramatic new looks to four more ladies, whose lives and confidence had been shattered by cancer.
JACQUELINE BEVAN, 39
Mum-of-five Jacqueline Bevan thought the stinging under her right armpit was a result of her somersaulting over the handlebars of her mountain bike on a ride with her partner Michael last March. But when she also felt a lump she headed straight to her GP and hospital tests revealed she had a large tumour.
“My first question to the doctor was not ‘am I going to die?’ but ‘is my hair going to fall out,’ she say. Within two weeks of starting chemotherapy, her ‘pride and joy’ - her long jet-black hair - was falling out in clumps.
“Losing my hair broke my heart, so to make the process less traumatic I cut it into a bob. But just days later it was coming out so quickly I asked my partner to shave the lot off. I did get a wig but it made my head so hot I stayed bald even though my five year old Joshua said I looked like a man”
After her daughter KayleighAnn, 17, nominated her for Caroline’s makeover through an advert in her local Sunderland newpaper, Jacqueline, a natural brunette, decided she wanted to be a ‘blonde bombshell’ for the first time in her life, She chose a shoulder-length number, to which Toni & Guy stylist Jen Deighton added more layers to frame her face.
With her once ashen complexion replaced by glowing cheeks and red lipstick, thanks to Fresh Minerals makeup artist Clare Charlwood-Jagger, she couldn’t stop laughing with delight. “I feel like a woman again, not a cancer patient, in fact I feel like a totally different person. The foxy chick is back!” she beamed.
ANGELA ROBSON, 29
Angela Robson fainted when doctors broke the news that the lump she had found in her left breast during a bath in February was a tumour. “I hadn’t been feeling well since October so when I found a lump, in the back of my mind I knew it could be cancer but hearing the news was still a terrible shock,” says the NHS support worker from Sunderland.
“I have always been so healthy, I was just 29, and there is no history of cancer in the family so I couldn’t believe why I had I had developed cancer, and an aggressive stage 3 version at that.”
Surgeons removed the tumour as well as the lymph nodes under her armpit before she embarked on chemo and radiotherapy and a five month course of the drug Tamoxifen which has induced an early menopause.
“That part is really tough as I would have loved to have a baby,” she says. Being bloated from steroids and practically hairless all over just made the cancer burden even more unbearable.
Angela had got a blonde NHS wig but she claimed it made her resemble an extra from the Sheila’s Wheels TV advert so she opted to use bandanas or just go bald.
“It’s great being given balloons and flowers when you are ill but in fact a makeover like this is what has really made the difference. You need to treat your mind as well as your body. Now I’ve got fantastic long hair (courtesy of wig specialists Trendco) again I can wear my pretty dresses again instead of boyish jeans to match my boyish crop! And after Christmas I think it’s time to find a boyfriend!”
JOANNE THOMPSON, 38
Shop assistant Joanne Thompson is looking forward to being ‘a party animal’ once more thanks to her new wig when she and six girlfriends hit Dublin next week for a birthday bash. “I do like to enjoy myself but I’ve not been out for months because I felt so down about my looks.
“I couldn’t wear mascara as I’d lost my eyelashes and my once lovely shoulder length blonde hair had fallen out so much I was about to ask the NHS for a wig when I found out my sisters had nominated me for a makeover.”
In March Joanne was diagnosed with an aggressive kidney tumour after agonising pains started in her right side and in April surgeons removed the entire kidney.
She agreed to take part in a trial of a new chemotherapy treatment to kill off any remaining cancer cells but an adverse reaction to the tablets left her entire swollen body and covered in blisters and sores. Her three children Callum, ten, Chloe, 11, and 20 month old baby Millie-Mae, even cried in terror when Steve brought them to see her in Newcastle General.
Her skin eventually cleared but she was left depressed. Bio Nails technician Sue Green added hot pink nail gels after chemo had left Joanne’s brittle and flaking and because her eyebrows had all but disappeared medical tattooist Cathy Beck drew them back on.
“It’s great to have brows again and they look so realistic while the real ones grow back over them,” says Joanne, “My appearance is very important part of the recovery process. Now I won’t have to avoid mirrors any more and I’ll definitely be back down my local tonight practising for Dublin!”
ANGELA PETCH, 54
A makeover couldn’t have come at a better time for retired nursery teacher Angela Petch. Just a week earlier she had been diagnosed with cancer for the third time in as many years “I really needed a pick-me-up after receiving the news and this makeover left me feeling beautiful,” she says.
The once super active grandma from Sunderland was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after she struggled on one of her regular ten mile coastal hikes. “I felt so tired I couldn’t get out of bed and my abdomen was bloating up so much I looked nine months pregnant and a CT scan revealed I had stage 3 Ovarian cancer,” she explains.
Six rounds of chemo caused her waist length straight hair to fall out which her three year old granddaughter Chloe would try and stick back on with sellotape. Angela was given a NHS wig when her real hair grew back dark and curly.
“I no longer felt like it me was me when I looked in the mirror as my hair looked so different. I tried to put on mascara, which I always wore, but when it went all over my eyelid I realised they were no longer there. I laughed but it was heartbreaking,” she says.
More devastating news came in October 2007 when cancer cells were found in her lungs and she lost her hair again with five more months of chemo. “Second time round was harder as I knew what to expect,” she says.
Then two weeks ago, after getting pains in her stomach area, cancer cells were found all over her body but she must wait to have more chemo until her body has recovered from the last punishing round.
“I do get down and think I am never going to get out of this hole but having the wonderful makeover has given me a reason to go on and fight. It has made me feel special for a while but at the same time, just like an ordinary person. I can’t wait to show my husband,” she smiles.
For more on Caroline’s Campaign, visit www.carolinescampaign.org.uk
Click here to find out more about the experts who helped to transform our brave readers
By Vicky Grimshaw