MARIA Carr knows only too well the unpredictable changes and challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis, yet one workshop has helped shine some light on an often turbulent and anxious time.
The 55 year-old childcare worker was diagnosed with breast cancer last November and was one of 14 patients to take part in the first-ever Look Good Feel Better workshop held at Mater Cancer Care Centre Springfield this morning.
The workshop is aimed at helping patients combat the visible side-effects of cancer treatment and while Mrs Carr said she knew how to apply make up, was still surprised by how much she learned and the social benefits of the experience.
"I was going to do it a while ago with my daughter but I was a bit apprehensive because even though everyone is going through the same thing, it is still a bit strange being in a room with strangers," Mrs Carr said.
"I ended up going with my friend Kim who I met during my therapy and that made it easier and a lot of fun, so it was a good day.
"Even though I know how to do my make-up, it was good to learn about the little things you don't know and just seeing the other women at the workshop sitting around me and realising that you're not alone in this journey, it was really great.
"There were all different ages too so that opens up your eyes a bit more too."
Look Good Feel Better is the only global cancer support charity of its kind and has been running in Australia for 27 years.
Queensland and Northern Territory Program Manager Gordana Pilgrim said the practical workshop covered skincare, make-up and headwear demonstrations and was always a rewarding experience meeting the participants and hearing their stories.
"Our workshops include sessions on skincare techniques to alleviate symptoms including dryness and sallowness; make-up tips to help patients deal with concealing redness and drawing on eyebrows as well as advice on headwear including scarf styling and wig selection," said Ms Pilgrim.
"Putting yourself in control of looking good is one of the simplest ways to boost your self-esteem and confidence while going through treatment.
"All the ladies loved the workshop and most ladies who come along really benefit- not just from learning about make-up, skincare or headware options, but also just from meeting other women going through a similar journey and having that camaraderie, so we find that they always take away a bit more than they were expecting.
"I love working with the ladies going through this journey and being able to make them feel special and to give them some time out from what is quite often a challenging time."
Mater Cancer Care Centre Nurse Unit Manager Billy Jovanovic said she was thrilled to begin offering the program to cancer patients who live in the area.
"In chatting to patients in the past, I've found the Look Good Feel Better workshop leaves them with a change in outlook and they feel a sense of control over their physical appearance which reflects in their emotional wellbeing," Ms Jovanovic said.
"I think it's great for our patients to meet others in a similar situation in a positive setting. They not only receive practical support but have the opportunity to build friendships outside of a medical environment, which can only be positive while undergoing treatment."
Look Good Feel Better offers free information and workshops to help anyone undergoing treatment for any type of cancer and holds over 1000 workshops in 180 locations around Australia each year.