The last couple of months have been manically busy! My latest book, ‘The Heart of Winter,’ is in all good book shops and I reckon it would make a fabulous Christmas pressie for you, your family, your friends, your neighbours and even people you hate. I don’t mind how many you buy. Massive thanks to all the lovely amazing folks who have already bought it. You know I love you all dearly.
Along with the usual day-to-day stuff like being a wife and mum and trotting in for my three weekly chemotherapy sessions, I’ve been doing a bit of television with the lovely folks at Xposé on TV3. Thanks to all the kind people who’ve sent messages of support.
I’ve had so much fun with the Xposé crew creating a little series of positive and helpful ways of coping while kicking cancer. As any cancer patient will know there’s absolutely nothing glamorous about being diagnosed with this awful disease.
Being a nine-times survivor I have learned one or two things along the way. I cannot begin to thank the doctors and nurses who constantly work to save my life. Without them and the advances in modern medicine, I wouldn’t be here today.
But as the years rolled by and my cancer continued to return I realised that there is so much more to fighting this insidious disease than taking medication.
Cancer and the treatment aren’t fun - ever. But that doesn’t mean that my life has gone from colour to black and white. Quite the opposite in fact. I’ve realised that now, more than ever, I need to keep my chin up make up on and carry on being me. My name is not cancer and this disease has never stopped me from fulfilling my dreams and feeling like a woman.
I hope that, along with the fabulous team from Xposé, we have covered some topics to give you ideas on how to feel better about yourself. It’s nice to know that there is life during and after cancer treatment.
In case you missed the show or don’t live in Ireland, here are the items we’ve covered so far. Maybe they’ll give you or someone who is battling cancer a positive idea or two.
Some of these things may not rock your boat. It’s certainly not necessary to do all of them, but if even one of the ideas can help to give you a lift I’ll be delighted! So here’s where we’ve done so far… Or as they say in X Factor – ‘the story so far’…
Wigs and hairpieces
We visited the lovely ladies at The Hair Club in Donnybrook. They do everything from small clip in human hair extensions to full wigs. This, my friends is not a final resting place for sad looking road kill. Oh no, here you will find trendy fashionable and affordable solutions for hair thinning or full hair loss. Hair club have an online store too. I’ve used their products for years and cannot recommend them highly enough.
Custom made hats
If wigs or hairpieces aren’t your thing, but you’d still like something to keep your head warm or indeed to adorn an outfit for a special occasion, Bernie O’Mahony is the woman you’ll need. Her beautiful pieces are specifically designed to cover the entire head with warm soft and comfortable fabrics. They're available from Kitten Doll and B on Thomas Street in Dublin or check out
Post mastectomy bras
There are many places that sell these but in my own experience they are hideously expensive and generally… well… hideous. A few years ago I discovered that M&S sell fabulous stuff. Prices start at €22.00 for two! They also do matching briefs for those of you who like pretty sets. All the bras can be bought online too, so you don’t even have to leave your house! This underwear revolutionised post mastectomy bra buying for me. When I felt the only place I could go was a ‘specialised’ place, it made me feel different (not to mention the high prices) so it’s wonderful to know that I can still shop in high street stores and get up to the minute and pretty stuff.
Elizabeth Oakes is the undisputed queen of permanent makeup in Ireland. With years of experience she uses a small hand tool (that she designed herself) to create the most realistic eyebrows imaginable.
I’ve lost my hair several times and thankfully it has grown back. But my poor eyebrows were a little bit scraggy looking to say the least. I was so excited about visiting Elizabeth to see what she could do for me. It’s four weeks since I had my tattooing done and I absolutely love the results. I would recommend this to anyone! I can’t believe how well my new eyebrows frame my face. By the way, you don't need to be a cancer patient to avail of Elizabeth's services. She also does lip liner and eye liner... I know! I'm very tempted!
Safe fake tan
I know when I was diagnosed at first I became very nervous about using products that were laced with chemicals. As a trained beauty therapist I have a bit of knowledge and understand of the skin. I was always wary of what I used. But having cancer definitely made me quite scared of using anything that could cause harm to my body. I began reading labels more closely and really thinking about what was in the bottles I bought. I am a fake tan addict and always have been. I am blessed with typically Irish skin (i.e. tinged with blue – I think I might be descended from the Smurfs) so I require good fake tan to feel better. Tan organic has been around for a few years and all their products are lovely, but their latest baby to join the family is a gem. It’s a self-tanning oil. If like me, you ended up with sandpaper-esque dry skin while having cancer treatment, this is a must. It goes onto clean dry skin just like a regular body oil, soaks in leaving the skin soft and supple and when you wake in the morning, hey presto, the blue tinge is gone only to be replaced by a lovely honeyed glow. The marvellous thing about it is that it doesn’t leave you with orange palms either. It comes off with a baby wipe or by washing your hands as soon as you finish applying. Obviously this product is for everyone. Especially great for pregnant ladies too!
Reflexology & MLD
These two therapies have been my little wild card for the past few years. As I have had cancer in many of the lymph nodes in my upper body I am not allowed to have that many alternative treatments. Reflexology is one that I have always been allowed to have and encouraged to have by my oncologist.
I tried many different therapists before I found Michelle Rhatigan. She’s at Physiofit Woman in Sandyford in Dublin. What’s different about Michelle? Firstly she’s a nurse. Secondly she trained for years and specialised in oncology reflexology.
I love having my feet rubbed and will plague my poor husband to do it while we watch TV. (Yes, he hates it.) So it wasn’t hard for me to get addicted to reflexology. But it’s not easy to find someone who does it right. If you can’t get to Michelle make sure the person you attend has oncology experience. This is a wonderful treatment that encourages your body to heal itself. It releases toxins from the body and promotes energy. Also the fact I’m having caring human touch that has nothing to do with needles or hospital treatment is such a treat and joy. Love it, love it, love it. (Did I mention I love it??) Again this isn't solely (pun pun) for oncology patients, it's wonderful for pregnant ladies and anyone looking to relax. Superb for helping with sleep issues too.
Also at Physiofit Woman is clinical director Deborah Fernandes. She is a chartered physiotherapist as well as having trained directly with Professor Leduc, who masterminded the best way of performing manual lymphatic drainage. What does MLD do? It helps and often totally irradiates lymph oedema. What’s that? It’s the awful and sore swelling that often occurs after surgery. Many women and indeed men suffer with swelling of the limbs post surgery. This gentle specific massage helps the body to eliminate the trapped lymph that causes the pain and swelling. I have attended Deborah for years and without her help I know I would have two puffy dough balls for hands! If you’re suffering with lymph oedema, get yourself along to her. If you don’t live near Dublin, search for a qualified practitioner in your area.
Physiofit Woman are registered so if you are fortunate enough to have private health insurance you can claim back some of the money back.
There are more ideas in the pipeline and I will continue to share my own knowledge and look for other ways that women can help themselves to feel better during and after treatment.
For now I’m off to make a hot lemon and honey drink. I have contracted man flu from my husband. It’s not great. I’m not enjoying it. I currently sound like Marge Simpson, my nose is running like a tap and I have glassy eyes and look dreadful (apart from my perfect eyebrows).
I hope you are all in a snot-free zone and that you’re getting ready for Christmas.
I have a confession to make before I go… My first Christmas tree is already up. I know it’s still November but I had an excuse honestly. I had a nice lady coming to take my photo for a magazine and it needed to look Christmassy. So needless to say I offered to put up a tree to facilitate the picture! I’m not allowed to do any more decoration, for fear of being extradited to the shed until December first. With my man flu, I don’t think I’d cope with living outside. So all the rest of the tinsel and glitter is waiting patiently until the clock strikes twelve on December Eve…
Chat to you all soon!
Love and light (and a bit of sniffling)