Me after my 3rd cycle of chemotherapy on September 25, 2013 and me with my hair growing back nicely on February 1, 2014.
On June 20, 2013 I was diagnosed with cancer, specifically Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. It’s a cancer of the blood and I spent about five months in and out of the hospital near my home in East Sussex undergoing treatment and four cycles of chemotherapy. At the end of October 2013, I was told I was in remission, which is the best news anybody with cancer can get!
One thing I realised during my time in the hospital was that there wasn’t really anything on the internet that told me what kind of products I’d need during treatment. The drugs alone cause side effects and when combined with the chemo, your whole body takes a toll.
Before I was diagnosed and hospitalized for months at a time, my get-up-and-get-dressed routine involved spending a good hour on my makeup and hair. At the hospital, I didn’t really bother with my makeup for a while. But when I first put my eyeliner back on, I definitely felt more like my pre-cancer self. You don't have to give up on looking good! Here are some of my other must-have beauty products:
Fact 1: You’re still beautiful and don’t ever forget it.
You probably don’t want to put on foundation when you’re going to spend the majority of your time in bed, asleep, where you’ll probably end up transferring your foundation to your pillow anyway. Primer is a more practical option. My personal favourite is NYX Studio Perfect Photo-Loving Primer
. It will smooth out your skin and brighten your complexion and when you’re in hospital, that’s really all you need on your face.
2. Lash and eyebrow definer
I was fortunate enough that even though I lost the hair on my head and some of my body hair, the type of chemo I received didn’t cause me to lose my eyebrows or my eyelashes. If you still have lashes and brows, Barry M Clear Mascara & Eyebrow Definer
is great for adding a bit of definition. It’s not too heavy and it won’t cause a mess if it rubs off whilst you’re lying in bed. For those who lose their eyebrows and lashes, you can use an eyebrow pencil to carefully to fill in your brows and try a set of natural-looking false lashes to frame your eyes whilst yours grow back.
3. Rich lip balm
Lips do become very, very dry and cracked. Mine got extremely sore and took a while to heal, but a little pot of Carmex Moisturising Lip Balm
healed them perfectly. It did take a while for mine to get back to normal, but that was because they were so dry and cracked and I kept biting them whenever I got nervous. But Carmex will definitely work wonders!
4. Nail strengthener
My nails were also affected by treatment -- they became brittle, dry and also started to peel. Regular application of Sally Hansen Miracle Cure
helps strengthen nails after a couple of weeks.
5. Nail growth booster
Fact 2: Your skin will get seriously dry and sore!
6. Hydrating face mist
All the treatment I was enduring made my skin dry out. It was extremely dry and itchy. If you get the pleasure of being stabbed with a needle every morning and evening for blood tests, you’ll know that the sticky tape used to hold the cotton wool down over your new needle mark is one of the strongest of its kind! If it’s left on for more than 20 minutes, I can guarantee you’re going to struggle to get it off. When you do get it off, your skin will be sore and red and having this happen every morning and evening for months on end will definitely upset your skin. I wish I'd had Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water
when I was in the hospital. It’s designed to use on your face to keep you skin clear, smooth, hydrated and free of dirt and oil build up, BUT I’ve found that using it on the rest of your skin soothes it too!
7. Nourishing face cream
8. Gentle acne-fighting moisturiser
Simple Spotless Skin Anti-Blemish Moisturiser pretty much does the same thing as The Aromatherapy Shop product (tackling spots and moisturising) so if you can't get your hands on this one, stick with the witch hazel cream. BOTH are great products though.
9. Heavy-duty hand cream
I found that Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Intensive Relief Hand Cream
was definitely the best hand cream out there for when your hands get sore and dry. It gets to work quickly, smells absolutely gorgeous and you can feel it moisturising your hands. It also relieves and soothes the soreness that comes from having dry and cracked skin on your hands.
10. Healing ointment
The Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment
is really good for sore, raw, dry skin. If you’ve had to have a picc line taken out due to infection or you’ve got any sore patches of skin, Bepanthen is really gentle and it will soothe and heal your skin. It's also extremely useful for putting on your head when you lose your hair. A little of this cream goes a long way and after I lost my hair, when it started to grow back my scalp did get itchy and sore. Bepanthen was the only thing I could use on my head as other products, especially moisturisers, even those for sensitive skin actually made it itch more. So I’d 100% recommend Bepanthen!
Fact 3: A lovely scent will put you in a good mood.
11. Lightweight fragrance
I found that spending the majority of my hospital stays in bed meant that the only time I felt freshened up was after I’d had a shower. But some days I just didn’t feel like getting up out of bed, having to get undressed, shower and then get dressed again. So I kept little bottles of Impulse Body Fragrance
by my bed and in with my toiletries. All you need is one quick spray quickly onto your body under your clothes, or even onto your clothes and you have a lovely fresh scented smell. It just freshens you up. There are so many different scents to choose from in the Impulse range, but my personal favourites are Romantic Spark and Into Glamour. They both smell fruity and flowery. Really gorgeous!
Most of the products I’ve mentioned are available to buy online in the U.S., but if you want help tracking down other products that work, my blog has a lot of posts about products I’ve found useful. You can also read more about dealing with hair loss, buying a wig and my cancer story.
Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best!