Cancer support workshops ‘help us feel our best selves’, says Asian survivor


Anita Patel attended her first LGFB workshop last September
Anita Patel attended her first LGFB workshop last September

by LAUREN CODLING

A BREAST-CANCER survivor has urged the Asian community to get involved with cancer-support beauty workshops, claiming that they have “changed her life”.

The Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) workshops help cancer patients with the visible side effects of their treatment. The cancer support charity provides professional advice on beauty and skincare regimes, which can help boost the confidence of those who have lost their hair or had skin changes due to their treatments.

The workshops, which are open to both men and women, are also a way to meet fellow patients. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, LGFB has extended its services online and has recently introduced virtual workshops.

Anita Patel, 42, attended her first LGFB workshop at the Leicester Royal Infirmary last September. The mother-of-two, who was diagnosed with breast cancer several months earlier, found out about the initiative from a friend.

A picture of a LGFB workshops for
women in 2019. Services are now online due to the coronavirus crisis

“It is all about making you feel your best self in a nurturing, nonjudgmental and safe environment,” Patel explained to Eastern Eye. “Some women were on chemo, so they were shown how to give eyebrows more definition, for example.

“Even for those who hadn’t lost their hair, it was about helping us to face the challenges and just feel better about ourselves, whatever stage we were at in our cancer journey.”

Patel said the workshop had a “big impact” on her life. Juggling demands as a mother but also coping with her cancer treatment meant she was not prioritising her own beauty routine. However, she now takes care to use what she has learned from the workshops and makes an effort with her skincare routine when she can.

The side effects of Patel’s treatment meant her skin has become drier than usual. Therefore, during her session, volunteers talked her through a cleansing and moisturising routine to keep her skin healthy and hydrated.

“I would say (the workshops) have actually changed my life,” she said. “I’m a busy mum and I wasn’t really prioritising getting up and trying to feel my best self. But this has really made me do that whenever I can.”

Even during lockdown, Patel said she makes an effort to put on make-up and look after her skin if she has a Zoom call scheduled with her friends.

Anita has taken part in other events organised by LGFB, including a fashion show

“I make sure I get myself a little dressed up, put on some lip gloss or eyeliner, make sure my skin is well hydrated,” she explained. “It does make you feel good.”

She added: “I’m still on my treatment, so you have good and bad days with the side effects… but on the not-so-good days, just doing a little of what the workshop has taught me does make a difference.”

However, Patel is one of the few Asian participants in the LGFB services. She believes this could be down to the cultural taboos associated with cancer in the community.

“There is almost a stigma associated with cancer especially breast cancer, as it involves talking about your body in more detail,” she said. “I personally have tried to become more open and vocal, especially recently now that I understand it more. The more we talk about it, the less scary it becomes.”

Thirteen years ago, Patel’s mother passed away from breast cancer. Due to her experience, Patel said the disease had “sadly become familiar territory for (her) family”. She hopes to encourage Asians who have undergone treatment for cancer to look into the workshops and consider getting involved. Attendees will make connections with others going through similar situations, she said, and feel empowered.

“Women and men are both welcome, reinforcing the message that it’s not just a make-up or feeling glamorous workshop – it goes way beyond that,” she said. “We deserve to feel our best selves.”

Visit www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk/ for more information.