seven steps out the door

February 27, 2007 § 9 Comments

1. Moisturize. Everywhere. Bathing in baby oil is an option, but a touch dangerous if barefoot on a tile floor.
2. Concealer. A good painter will tell you that the secret to a great paint job is prep. What stain Kilz does for your walls, concealer does for your face. Don’t like concealer, spend time with people who a) have lost their glasses b) are over 40
3. Foundation is the equivalent of primer.
4. Blush and Bronzer, the first and second coats of paint.
5. Brows/Shadow/Liner/Mascara, think trim and visualize painted Victorians.
6. Lipstick. A mouth defined is a terrific distraction from anything that’s missing, wrinkled or fallen.
7. Hair, you’re bald without it.

The American Cancer Society sponsors a terrific seminar called “Look Good… Feel Better” It’s a public service program intended to help women deal with appearance-related changes from cancer treatment. Far from vanity, it’s a prescription, an anti-depressant really.

The session I attended was at 10am in an administrative wing at Dana Faber which meant we avoided the elevators to the patient floors. Thank goodness, too many harsh cancers make their home up there. By comparison, my breast cancer feels like a half hour of Barney.

The seminar.

The room was small and crowded. A greeter from the ACS or one of their many LGFB volunteers met me at the door and offered a snack. Picture the continental breakfast at a Holiday Inn. I passed up the cellophane pressed Danish and opted for a cup of tea. I took my spot at the table. Across from me, were two bald women, to my right three, and so on around the table. I think there were a total of 14 participants. Some of the women brought a friend.

My first thought.

These poor woman with cancer. Gosh they look like shit.

What was I doing there? I was younger, I was thinner, I was wearing a hat. I didn’t look sick. I didn’t look like ….. I resisted as long as I could, like a bag resists a vacuum. Vfoosh I gave in, watery eyes and all. We shared skin tones akin to aged celery leaves. Not vibrant enough for garnish but still useful in soup. And we shared more.

I distracted myself with the make-up; each participant receiving a red goodie bag. Chanel pressed powder, Origins eye shadow, whip-creamy moisturizer and dozens of other items donated by a behemoth cosmetics industry. From surplus to public service, now that’s community relations. Pity I didn’t bring a pal along. Any one of them would have loved all this free stuff.

They dimmed the lights and pressed play on a DVD. We screened what began as an uplifting take on the pending seminar; past participants raving about the program along with dramatic before and after shots. It was a happy piece but I wondered why we were watching it in the first place. Then the music shifted.

I’m in the biz and probably pay much more attention to these details than most. Still, the somber music over b+w stills dissolving was an odd bit of direction. I fully expected text to appear over each woman with her date of birth along with the date she died.

This is not just about my dark psyche, even the woman running the DVD admitted that she cried every time she screened the film. Congrats, not a dry eye in the house. Fabulous fundraiser, but this group had given plenty already.

Lights up, tissues out and the mood shifted to make-up. I’ll admit I needed the refresher course. My last make–over was at Saks eight plus years ago. A touch more celadon in my skin now and I needed a redirect. Big surprise here, women in their 50’s who had no idea what to do with blush let alone lip liner. They must have been teachers or worked for non-profits. Within the hour every one of our pale faces became pure glamour. It was noon, we had no place to go, but gosh we looked good and as promised, felt better.

I’ve been feeling better as well. This week was treatment number seven, just one more to go. There were no chairs or numbers to ruminate about, I was in a room with a bed, much better than a chair with a view. Someone likes me. I think it’s my nurse. The feeling is mutual. She started the Benadryl drip diluted this time to decrease the burn and before the Taxol could interfere with my normal microtubule growth I was asleep under blankets with an IV and dreaming about the terrific party I am going to throw when this is over.


§ 9 Responses to seven steps out the door

  • Liz Hill says:

    Not vibrant enough for garnish but still useful in soup.

    HA! you’re the kiwi in our compote! Pick your makeover place, babe. You’ve just about made it through this tunnel.



  • Rebecca says:

    Who knew you were going to look so great bald!

    Love, Reb

  • Joyce says:


    You look fabulous with or without the fluff.

    Sending a great big hug and all my love,


  • ruth says:

    hey, hey, hey…before departing for my non profit job this morning I actually, for the first in a long time, applied light cream foundtaion, blush and eye shadow. I must’ve felt your latest posting coming which inspired me to brighten up the puffy eye bags and placid overtones.
    Our soup get together was great and I look forward to collaboration on enriching your wonderful narratives with complementary recipes that have comforted or inspired you through the journey.
    And yes, what a party it will be!
    love ya

  • Bobbie Beyer says:

    Don’t you hate the burning Benadryl? I went into anaphylactic shock on Sunday night and they set me up with an IV in the ambulance and brought out the Benadryl and I gave them a kind of green look… so they put it in a syringe in my arm instead of into my veins. Nice guys.

  • Mary Ann says:

    As always you had me laughing! Counting down with you…Our love to Frannie (and you ,of course).
    Mary Ann and Lester

  • Karen Waer says:

    You are an amazing person. I LOVE reading your blog. Actually (I’ll admit this Rick) this is the first blog I have ever kept up with. I think that’s a sign of my age. Whatever. Kathy wants me to visit in April. Let’s pick a weekend – Do any of the weekends at the beginning of April work for you (Or end of March or early May?). I hope your blog turns into a best seller, and I see you on Oprah someday beautiful. You are insiring to me and, MOMO I wish you well and will keep praying. Love, Karen

  • Gordon says:


    While I probably should have had two X’s instead of only one to fully understand this posting, particularly the first part, I think I still get most of the image you are conveying. In any event, I’m so glad you’re feeling relatively well and nearing the end if this difficult phase.


  • Liz Hill says:

    Uh, oh, I think I hear Simon & Garfunkel in the background. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme.

    Seriously though, there’s something incredibly therapeutic about watching those sprouts take root – whether they’re on your windowsill or your scalp.

    Growth, recovery, rejuvenation. Out spot…in sprout!

    Happy Mother’s Day! Happy Spring! XO Lizzy

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