When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, back in 2005, the selection of products promising to help nurture and nourish my wellbeing were slim, at best.
I was a twenty six year old girl and beauty, make up and skin care were rather high up the priority list! When it came to the subject of hair loss, chemo skin, radiotherapy burn and nail care, I had always taken pride in my appearance and initially the idea of having to contend with wigs and headscarves didn’t phase me. After all, Kylie was doing it!
That was, until that second session of chemo, when my scalp felt so sore and my hairbrush looked like it had just been raked through Big Foot on a bad hair day! The discomfort was like nothing I had ever experienced before and so started the rather temporary but traumatic decline of my femininity, identity and general twenty something appearance!
Then I met Jennifer Young. While undergoing treatment for my third diagnosis, nine years later, I became aware of how much things were changing and how much more conscious healthcare workers were of the side effects on patients wellbeing and appearance, as well as those living beyond cancer.
Jennifer and I met through a mutual friend back in 2012, and after hearing her story and the background of the Defiant Beauty products, I was hooked.
Seven years later, Jennifer Young and Beauty Despite Cancer have collaborated with Cancer Research UK in a pioneering new venture, making these natural and luxurious indulgent products even more accessible to cancer patients throughout the UK, as well as those living beyond treatment. The dry scalp treatment is a permanent gift for anyone I know now going through chemo and the itchy skin oil is brilliant!
Jennifer has worked so hard to promote this amazing skin care range and in addition, has developed accredited professional qualifications for spas and therapists. These qualifications are accredited by a number of internationally recognised professional bodies. The team deliver CPD courses for a number of organisations as well as delivering training to healthcare professionals. Last Summer, I had a wonderfully nurturing full body massage treatment in London. I felt so pampered and my skin felt nourished for days.
Jennifer Young products and services can be found in a number of UK hospitals, hospices and support centres. They were created with the help of those affected by cancer and their healthcare teams. Jennifer has a BSc (Hons) in Biology and is an experienced microbiologist, a nutritional therapist, an associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, a qualified aromatherapist, beauty therapist and product formulator. She is a wonder woman, a superhero who, after being asked to create a specialist skincare and cosmetic range for those going through cancer treatment at her local hospital, discovered the harsh reality of the side effects of the drugs for patients skin. Jennifer recognised a demand for products that could help patients feel pampered and nurtured, without fear of adding more chemicals to the skin.
Cancer Research UK is the worlds leading cancer charity, priding itself on saving lives through research and pioneering work into prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s aim is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
Cancer care, in general, has improved hugely over the last ten years. I can absolutely vouch for this after having had three breast cancer diagnosis within the last twelve years. When I speak to other patients and survivors who have had more recent experiences, I am encouraged that more is being done to support patients wider needs. Health and wellbeing are at the forefront of cancer care now with more of a focus being given to the broader concerns of younger patients in particular. It isn’t just older people who get cancer and a woman is still a woman despite cancer.
In 2015 I had the opportunity to speak alongside my own breast cancer consultant at The Royal Society of Medicine in London at a conference for medical professionals focusing on breast cancer in the young, the pregnant and with a family history.
The comfort I felt seeing and hearing a growing appreciation, from medical professionals, for a patients wellbeing during and after cancer treatment and the necessity of managing their broader needs, was huge.
Holistic support through reflexology, acupuncture and reiki, emotional support and access to mental health professionals and counselling, physical care such as physiotherapy, fertility advice and services, wig specialists and dermatologists, as well as a continuity of care from specific cancer care nurses through and beyond cancer. The entire cancer support team illustrated through an enormous circular diagram all drawn around one smaller one, the patient, on a slide, lit by a projector on a big screen.
With the amazing work that charities like Cancer Research UK are doing, as well as pioneering health, wellbeing and beauty products like Beauty Despite Cancer, patients have an expanding wealth of services and support to tap into. A collaboration like this, for anyone going through or living with and beyond cancer, is game changing.
For someone like me, who has witnessed a constantly changing landscape of cancer treatment over the last twelve years, and knows, only too well, the complex and far reaching side effects of cancer treatment, it is a remarkable step forward for patients wellbeing. It will continue the crucial conversation between patients and healthcare professionals, and encourage, improve and develop the patients experience.
We can stop the search folks, we can still be, and feel, beautiful despite cancer.