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Beauty workshop boost confidence of cancer patients
Times photographer Sara Guevara applies makeup Monday during a “Look Good ... Feel Better” program at The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville. - photo by Tom Reed

I have never been one to wear makeup. The task of drawing a perfectly straight and even line across any part of my face is quite daunting.

Words like mascara, eye shadow and lipstick are foreign.

Foundation is a structure on which a house is built, not an item applied to the face to hide imperfections and blemishes.

After I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments, however, I began to view makeup as my ticket to some semblance of normalcy.

Chemotherapy left me tired and I looked it, too. The dark circles crept up on me and wreaked havoc on my otherwise youthful appearance. My once-thick eyebrows were reduced to blotchy patches of nothingness. Even my eyelashes retreated once I had a few cycles of chemotherapy.

I stopped looking like me.

I rarely looked in the mirror during my three-month dance with chemotherapy because I could not stand to see what I had become, or rather, what I had lost. When I did manage to look in the mirror, I did not recognize the person staring back at me.

I understand that many women, and even men, experience this seemingly shallow attack of vanity when faced with hair loss and skin changes. I’m not one to sit around and sulk, however, so I went searching for a way to help me get back to feeling better.

I eventually found out about the “Look Good ... Feel Better” program, which is offered at no cost by the American Cancer Society. The program helps women mitigate the effects cancer treatments can have on their appearance.

The program consists of a two-hour workshop that teaches women how to deal with hair loss and to take care of newly sensitive nails and skin.

Participants even receive a free kit of beauty products. The kit contains items such as eye shadow, lipstick and concealer from high-end companies like Chanel, Aveda and M.A.C.

I attended a morning session at The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville.

I learned a lot. I learned how to keep my skin looking its best and even how to draw on eyebrows.

The instructor, a master cosmetologist, was more than helpful. She was patient and understanding. She helped dispel my fears of makeup.

By the end of the program, I felt armed with a new sense of confidence.

I know that beauty is not just skin deep: It lies in your demeanor, perspective on life and even your sense of humor.

Sometimes, however, a girl just wants to put on a little makeup and feel pretty. This is especially true when something as serious as a cancer diagnosis threatens to take everything away.