Several years ago, I noticed a bump behind my knee. It began interfering with my daily activities, so I had my doctor take a look at it. She said it was just a cyst and nothing to worry about, but sent me to an orthopedist for further testing. After an X-ray, the orthopedist confirmed it was a Baker’s cyst and that I shouldn’t be concerned.
But I just couldn’t let go of the feeling that something was wrong. There was a voice in the back of my head that told me to follow up. A week later when I was back at my doctor’s office for something unrelated to my knee, I asked her to look at it one more time. This time she agreed to send me for an ultrasound, which would be the start of a very long, tough road.
Following the ultrasound, I was diagnosed with myxoid liposarcoma, a cancer with tumors that occur in the leg and have a high risk of recurring in other soft-tissue sites or in bones. I had radiation and surgery to remove the bump on the back of my knee, but less than six months later, my healthcare team found two more tumors. By the time they confirmed it was metastatic disease, I had several soft-tissue and bony tumors.
I’m continually undergoing treatment. The radiation and surgery were hard, but the chemotherapy really changes you. I’ve had three different types of chemo, and my hair has fallen out each time. I lost all my eyelashes, underarm hair, eyebrows — everything! The hard thing about this is that it makes you look like a cancer patient. When you look in the mirror, that’s the first thing you see. It can be hard to put on a brave face and steer yourself through the challenges of cancer when the person looking back at you looks compromised or almost unrecognizable.
Thankfully, the Roswell Park Resource Center for Patients and Families and the Look Good, Feel Better Program helped me turn around my fear. I’ve never been one to wear much makeup, so I struggled to find ways to make myself look like me again. But the program taught me how to draw on eyebrows, how to wear a wig, what products I should use when the chemo dries out my skin, and so much more.
I learned valuable tips from professionals and other women who were going through the same experience and feeling the same way. There’s so much camaraderie and support from the professionals and fellow participants. The program gives each patient a makeup kit and teaches you how to use it so you can decide how much or how little you want to use. Chemo even made my skin change color, but they taught me how to correct that and what to do when my scalp started itching while I was wearing a wig in public.
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The Look Good, Feel Better Program helped me portray the image that I was a healthy and vibrant person, not someone dealing with cancer whom people stare at and feel bad for. It’s amazing what a small thing like eyebrows can do for your self-esteem! Most people take them for granted or don’t even notice them, but when they’re gone, you notice.
This program gave me back my confidence and taught me so many valuable things — about makeup and about myself. My cancer journey hasn’t been an easy one, but each day I can look in the mirror and start my day with another step forward.
Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.