Dannevirke: Battlers relish pampering

By Christine McKay

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Carmel Drysdale (left) from Wigs by Haircreations, Cassie Rowe, Raewyn Porter, Lani Hullah, Jamie Graham, Carolyn Beer, Sheryl Augustine and Melissa Monaghan, the volunteers for Dannevirke's first Look Good Feel Better workshop on Monday. Photo/Christine McKay
Carmel Drysdale (left) from Wigs by Haircreations, Cassie Rowe, Raewyn Porter, Lani Hullah, Jamie Graham, Carolyn Beer, Sheryl Augustine and Melissa Monaghan, the volunteers for Dannevirke's first Look Good Feel Better workshop on Monday. Photo/Christine McKay

As six women arrived for a Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) workshop in Dannevirke this week they were subdued and a little bit apprehensive.

More than two hours later the six, all battling cancer, were chatting, laughing and discussing options for lunch.

"I feel like a queen," Barbara said. "Look at me, I'm glowing. This has given me a big lift."

And Jan, with a wide smile, proclaimed: "I feel like a new girl. I definitely look great and feel better. Where are we going for lunch?"

Valerie is on her cancer journey but with a family wedding on the horizon, looking good is important.

"You always feel good when you have your hair and make-up done," she said.

"When you do your own make-up you just slap it on. I feel wonderful. I love my new look, it would just be nice not to have cancer."

There were similar sentiments from the other women taking part in Dannevirke's first LGFB session, which had been organised by Lani Hullah who was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.

"Now it's your time to feel beautiful," she told the women. "Five years ago when I attended a workshop I couldn't believe how fabulous I felt. This is one appointment when you're battling cancer which is positive."

The LGFB workshops are sponsored by the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association, which donates $2 million to the cause. In 2013, 2771 women attended the workshops in New Zealand and on Monday it was the turn of the six Dannevirke women.

All the women who attend the workshops take home between $300 and $400 in beauty products.

"Lani has done so well to bring these workshops to Dannevirke and the difference in the women is just amazing," Shirley Walker, the Cancer Society's field officer for the Tararua, said. "The change in the women is wonderful."

Mrs Walker said Lani realised how valuable the sessions were after going through her own cancer journey and taking part in an LGFB workshop.

"She'd seen how women walk in as strangers and leave with a smile on their faces, realising they're not alone," she said.

"When she began helping out at the sessions last year it soon became apparent Dannevirke women weren't turning up for the workshops, despite having registered. It is such an effort to go to Palmerston North each day for their appointments and treatments that most just can't face another journey, so it's something special to finally be able to offer this workshop locally.

"It hasn't come easy for Lani, she's put in a tremendous amount of effort."

Six volunteers helped to pamper the Dannevirke women on Monday, including Cassie Rowe, Lani's daughter.

"After seeing mum go through her treatment and then the positive effect of the LGFB workshops, it was just the natural thing for me to do," she said.

"This is an emotional time for these women, but it's nice to know we're helping to restore some normality and hopefully for a couple of hours they're not thinking about their cancer.

"All women like pampering, but I can't imagine what it's like for these women facing the reality of their cancer every day.

"It's quite a big thing for any woman not to feel good, so being able to give that little bit to help them feel amazing ... "

Trained consultants and make-up artists Sheryl Augustine and Melissa Monaghan, of Ward's Pharmacy, volunteered their time for the workshop.

"It's important these women are pampered and have their spirits lifted," Sheryl said.

Carmel Drysdale of Palmerston North works with people needing a wig or headwear and has donated her time to the LGFB workshops for 11 years.

"Often for women, after everything they've gone through, losing their hair as a result of their treatment can be scary," she said. "And for some, it's even more so than their cancer. I try to find something to make them feel normal.

"Most of the time women go away from these sessions happy and positive and feel good.

"Wigs today are natural and modern-looking and the medical wigs are designed for the best possible look. It's so uplifting for a woman wearing a wig to be asked, "oh who is your hairdresser?'."

Ten years ago Raewyn Porter was diagnosed with breast cancer and on Monday she was happy to pitch in to help at the workshop too.

"It's nice to be with others who are in the same situation and to be here for them. I know what it's like having to travel to Palmerston North for appointments and surgery, so this workshop is a great achievement," she said.

With their beauty routine finished and make-up expertly applied, it was time for the women to learn about wigs and headgear.

Jan was wowed by two different wigs.

"It's gorgeous," she said. "This is amazing and so light and cool."

Valerie was fitted with a stunning grey wig, which she tried to hold on to even when the time came to return it.

A day that had started out like so many others ended with a group of brave Dannevirke women feeling very special, Mrs Walker said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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