When faced with the frightening prospect of cancer, pampering can go a long way to help, says Nicola Upson. The Auckland nail technician has been awarded a $30,000 grant through Jetstar's Flying Start scheme towards her free manicure and pedicure therapy service for women living with cancer.
Upson set up the charity Hand in Hand after she was diagnosed with breast cancer about two years ago.
"I underwent a full mastectomy, six months of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation and now I have five years of hormonal therapy," she said. "I became very aware that pain is inevitable but suffering is not."
Many people with cancer are forced to leave their jobs or cut work hours so can't afford to spoil themselves, she says. Yet it is never more important to try to enjoy life.
"Your mind often becomes your worst demon. If you can keep your mind healthy, you can really get through a lot of things better than if you have a negative outlook."
She decided to put her skills as a beautician and nail technician to help women stay positive.
"They come along here and have a beautiful time, a lovely time. There's no discussion about cancer or anything like that, it's just luxury and bliss.
"I see women come in here feeling pretty low and pretty bad — you can see it in their body language. By the time they've left they're laughing, smiling and feeling great."
Hand in Hand will receive a $15,000 cash grant and $15,000 for travel, enabling women from all over the country to enjoy the service.
Upson said the cash will help extend the service, buy a pedicure spa chair, set up a website and stock up on organic beauty products.
Auckland woman Suzanne Wild, who had recurring cancer and osteoradionecrosis from radiation treatment, loved having her nails done this week.
"The treatment is just so relaxing. If my mouth's playing up, and my speech isn't good that day, then I don't have to pretend. I can be who I am and really enjoy it," she said.
"You come in here and you actually forget about how bad it is."
The Herald on Sunday is a partner with The Jetstar Flying Start Programme. Head of Jetstar NZ Grant Kerr said Hand in Hand offers a wonderful service to women living with cancer and to their families.
"Hand in Hand gives women living with cancer the opportunity to have an hour or two to enjoy some special care. The impact this has on them is immeasurable."