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Looks So Matter

I am 61 years old and diagnosed with stage 4 squamous NSCLC in May of 2018.

Since I heard the diagnosis in a small cramped examination room at the Ottawa cancer institute my world, and the way I look, has changed dramatically.

A long successful career in sales taught me that how you look really does matter.

I never looked my age. I carefully looked after myself.

Skin creams, brighteners, makeup and an extensive wardrobe complete with coach purses and tailored suits all contributed to my persona.

My first line of treatment was a clinical trial of 2 immunotherapies. I was hopeful and totally unprepared for the side effects.

I arrived for my first infusion makeup done, hair in place, wearing a tailored outfit of pants, knee high Ralph Loren boots and a matching sweater carrying one of many coach bags. It went well and I felt great.

2 days later I was so tired I couldn’t get out of bed let alone do hair and makeup. Hell taking a shower was a major undertaking.

It lasted 5 days and then I started to feel better.

By the time infusion 2 arrived I felt well enough to indulge in my vanity once again. Maybe a little less prep time but still well healed by any standard.

All hell broke out after treatment 2! On day 5 after experiencing pretty much everything after infusion 1 I had a CT scheduled for 7 pm. My daughter picked me up for my appointment – a little less makeup and not such a coordinated outfit now. Halfway to my appointment I got uncontrollable diarrhea! No way to hold it. Driving on the freeway at 100 kilometers per hour literally filling my jeans and crying. My ex husbands house close by we stopped – I showered and my ex husband gave me a not so glamorous jogging suit to wear.

Clean, dressed and totally empty we proceeded to the ultrasound.

The first thing I noticed was that the registration nurse was not quite so chatty and friendly as on prior visits and had a distinct look of pity on her face.

I got through the ultrasound and got home and called my oncologist. I spent the next 21 days in hospital getting colitis and pancreatitis under control. My looks faded. Skin dulled. Lost 15 lbs and hair was dull. Didn’t even consider more than quick makeup and blow drying my hair.

Well that treatment worked to shrink the primary tumor by over 50% so it was a great success but I looked like a war survivor.

Next option after 3 months was chemo. I figured it had to be better than immunotherapy right?!?


I had recovered enough to arrive at my first infusion with makeup done and a nice outfit. Even a few well appointed accessories.

Once again treatment went well. Day 2 was great. Day 3 it hit. Nausea, vomiting and extreme fatigue. It lasted until 2 days before my next round. After two days of reasonable health I was able to put on a little makeup, jeans and a sweater for my next appointment. Once again the pity stares at the cancer Center.

I learned very quickly that how you look matters.

If you look good people speak to you and see you as a person. If you look bad you get the pity stares and all they see is cancer patient 14073-am.

I hate being the cancer patient. I want to scream “hey I’m in here – the same person who looked great 4 short weeks ago”.

I just finished all rounds of chemo. It has been a nightmare but I am stable.

All I want now is to be me again and have people see me and not cancer.

There is a program at our cancer Center called Look Good – Feel Great.

They teach you to use makeup to hide the effects of cancer and treatments.

When I saw it initially I thought it was funny and frivolous. Who needs different makeup because they have cancer? I have been doing my own makeup for over 40 years. I know my skin and all the contours of my face. I know how to mask my flaws…

I was wrong. Cancer does weird things to skin tones. Weight loss changes those facial contours.

I am signed up.

I was hesitant because I thought what pure vanity.

It is anything but that. I don’t need to look awesome. I need to beat cancer and stop it from taking over. I just want to look healthy.

I am sure there are many other women just like me. Cancer robbed us of looking like us.

In two weeks I will attend my class.

I will let everyone know how it goes!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • hedgiemom
    10 months ago

    You go girl! I have never been in the position of having to make an impression on a daily basis, although I would never think of going out in public w/o makeup or my hair groomed! I can see how your past has made it harder for you, because of your current circumstances. I’m stage 4, squamous NSCLC, recently diagnosed. I’ve lost my hair, gotten a wig(which looks better then my own thin hair-pre cancer. This is my third bout with cancer, once in 1970, then 1980, and now. The other ones were Hodgekins disease. I always tried to put makeup on, not only to look better but to FEEL better! Why look like death warmed over if you can look better? I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I just want some empathy. Perhaps we think they are feeling sorry for us- but maybe they feel empathy too!

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    10 months ago

    I applaud you, Queen, continue doing you and what makes you cope. Best!

  • terrysw
    11 months ago

    Good luck!! I totally agree. It’s been 4 years living with stage IV. Been thru chemo and now immunotherapy. I go in with full makeup and have matching clothes and jewelry. Makes me feel better as the medicine works its magic. Please update us with the new you!

  • Lisa Moran moderator
    11 months ago

    Thank you for your open and honest account of life with stage iv lung cancer. I’m glad you’re taking advantage of the Look Good Feel Good program.

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