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Outer Beauty Tips Lead to Inner Strength for Women with Breast Cancer

Resources for women fighting breast cancer that your doctor doesn't offer.

By the nature of its side effects, cancer treatment can make a private battle a very public affair. For a woman with cancer, having a bald head, pale skin or a missing breast can make her feel like she's being targeted by a bright spotlight and a banner that says 'Cancer patient'.

But now more than ever, there are resources for women that will put the spotlight back on their work, their accomplishments and their life—and change that banner to simply read 'Woman'.

Benchmark Atlantic Healthcare in McHenry offers Image Renewal services to breast cancer patients after a mastectomy, lumpectomy or reconstruction surgery. Cathy Boll, owner of Benchmark Atlantic Healthcare, and several other women on her team are certified mastectomy fitters and also offer in-home fittings. 

TLC or Tender Loving Care is a not-for-profit website and catalog of the American Cancer Society that helps women cope during and after cancer treatment by providing wigs and other hair loss products (plus how-to information), as well as mastectomy products.

Girl on the Go provides private or in-home wig consultations for women with cancer, with locations in 12 states, including Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

Breast cancer survivor Sheril Cohen started the business after her own struggles with hair loss that were matched only by the frustrating process of getting a wig.

"Wig shopping was awful," Cohen shares on her website. "[The attendant] tried to sell me this wig. I thought it was a cute cut, but I thought it made me older and unattractive. I cried. I felt sexy with my long hair. With this wig on I felt like a suburban fortysomething-year-old soccer mom. I was successful, single, a thirtysomething NYC woman. I wanted to retain me—not become someone I did not recognize."

Now Cohen proudly sells wigs of all kinds—synthetic, hybrid, human hair—to women all over the country, providing, as one of her clients says, privacy.

"I felt so like myself in my wig," said Ellen, a client. "No one knew. People who knew I had been diagnosed but did not know much else used to come up to me at events and ask when I was going to start chemo or if I had chosen a doctor yet. I did not have to tell anyone anything I did not want to tell them."

Cohen also blogs about topics like wig myths and when to stop wearing your wig. She even offers a formula for determining your wig budget.

As women in chemotherapy treatment discover, hair loss isn't limited to their locks. It means no eyebrows, no eyelashes and, as Cohen points out, one bright spot—no shaving.

Women can visit a lash studio to get back that feminine flutter of the lashes, and maybe even amp up their look with a few sexy, extra-long lash extensions.

In Crystal Lake, Butterfly Spa offers eyelash extensions and makeup consulting; Paul Hyland Salon and Day Spa offers makeup consulting; and Seva located inside Walmart offers eyelash extensions, among other services.

There are also resources online for women who have had surgery during treatment. KA Mastectomy Bras and Apparel, started by survivor Kimberly Ashmand, features pretty and practical bras tailored to the unique needs of survivors, as well as some with a little lace and sparkle to help women feel sexy again.

Adopting a new look during treatment is about more than simply feeling good for the moment—it can be another weapon in a woman's arsenal against cancer, giving her a deep well of positivity to sustain her. 

The Centegra Sage Cancer Center in McHenry and the American Cancer Society have partnered to offer a Wig Boutique to offer free, brand new wigs and scarves to cancer patients. The services are provided at the Cancer Center. For an appointment call 800-782-7716.

Also at Centegra, monthly classes for the Look Good Feel Better program are available. The program teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment. For more information on the next programs contact 800-782-7716.

TELL US: We want to know what matters most to you, whether it's lashes, lipstick or lingerie. Share in the comments section below what aspects of a makeover makes you feel the most beautiful. 

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