‘Even if I die I want to look pretty.’ The women hav­ing can­cer makeovers.

Friday - - Contents -

The room is filled with the sound of laugh­ter, uni­fy­ing anec­dotes and hum­bling words of com­pas­sion, a pos­i­tive at­mos­phere de­spite the ob­sta­cles faced by ev­ery woman in at­ten­dance.

Th­ese women of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties, re­li­gions, ages and ap­pear­ances are in­trin­si­cally con­nected by one bond – they have all been di­ag­nosed with can­cer yet, against the odds, have de­fied its de­struc­tive pas­sage ei­ther phys­i­cally or men­tally.

The Il­lu­min8 stu­dio in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lake Tow­ers is the meet­ing place for the in­au­gu­ral Shine Your Light workshop. Here un­der the wings of its founder, make-up artist to the stars Kate Good­win, can­cer suf­fer­ers and sur­vivors can gather for free con­sul­ta­tions on how to look good on the out­side and ul­ti­mately feel pos­i­tive on the in­side. “Look­ing in the mir­ror may be one of the hard­est chal­lenges for those deal­ing with can­cer,” says Kate, who lists ac­tress Mis­cha Bar­ton and so­cialite Paris Hil­ton as her clients.

“The ef­fects of chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion treat­ment can cause ter­ri­ble dam­age to skin, hair and nails, de­stroy­ing women’s con­fi­dence and leav­ing them feel­ing very dis­tressed about their ap­pear­ance.”

Many of the women agree that one of the most trau­matic as­pects of their fight against the disease is the loss of fem­i­nin­ity that comes with can­cer treat­ment. “I fin­ished chemo­ther­apy four months ago,” one suf­ferer says. “I had hair right down my back, but now it’s only a few cen­time­tres long – I hate it.”

Kate as­sures her that with the help of the vol­un­teer hair­dressers on hand, they will find

a way to change how she feels and, just a few hours later, sport­ing a brand new fash­ion­able pixie cut, she beams into the mir­ror with re­newed self-ac­cep­tance. “I love it,” she smiles, a mo­ment that en­cap­su­lates the ethos of the Shine Your Light work­shops.

The power to help

It was the loss of a close friend that ul­ti­mately in­spired Kate in her en­deav­our to make a dif­fer­ence for can­cer pa­tients in the UAE.

By pro­vid­ing a beauty con­sul­ta­tion dur­ing her friend’s last days and wit­ness­ing the pow­er­ful pos­i­tive ef­fect of an im­proved ap­pear­ance, it dawned on Kate that she may have the power to help oth­ers.

“Back in 2010, a friend who was suf­fer­ing from can­cer in Lon­don asked me to give her a make-up les­son,” she ex­plains. “I saw what it did for her and I knew it could have the same ef­fect on other can­cer suf­fer­ers. Even though Pam passed away shortly af­ter, I be­lieve she guided me here to­day.”

Back in Dubai Kate no­ticed that de­spite hav­ing a sim­i­lar can­cer rate to else­where in the world, there was very lit­tle on of­fer in the UAE to help pa­tients deal with the ap­pear­ancere­lated side ef­fects of the disease.

“I re­alised that women with can­cer here didn’t have any­thing to re­ally help guide them to look good,” she says. “Peo­ple are very fo­cused on ap­pear­ance in Dubai and I knew some­thing needed to be done to help.”

It was a chance en­counter with breast can­cer sur­vivor Brigitte Rineiger last Oc­to­ber that would in­spire Kate to set the Shine Your Light wheels in mo­tion. Brigitte, the epit­ome of fem­i­nin­ity – from im­mac­u­lately pol­ished nails and flaw­less olive skin to per­fectly tai­lored clothes and im­pec­ca­bly matched ac­ces­sories – sim­ply ex­udes pos­i­tiv­ity.

“When she walked through my doors for a make-up ses­sion I would never have known she had can­cer,” says Kate. “It was about two hours into a four-hour ses­sion when she told me and I was stunned. She had such a big smile and was so pos­i­tive and happy.”

Kate re­alised she had been shown another sign to use her tal­ent to help oth­ers, so she put to­gether the pa­per­work needed to start up a

free workshop for can­cer pa­tients fo­cus­ing on pam­per­ing and pos­i­tiv­ity.

With a plan in place, Kate as­sem­bled her dream team of vol­un­teers who could of­fer ad­vice on how to heal the out­side via skin­care, make-up and hair styling, and also work on im­prov­ing the in­side via med­i­ta­tion, af­fir­ma­tions and “find­ing hap­pi­ness within”.

How­ever, de­spite all th­ese pos­i­tive points, Kate re­alised there was still one cru­cial com­po­nent miss­ing. “I needed a spokes­woman,” she says. “For as much as I can of­fer it only ex­tends so far, I haven’t been through can­cer my­self. I knew Brigitte would be the per­fect am­bas­sador and I wanted to call her but I didn’t know what stage she was at with her can­cer. Then out of the blue the very next day she called me say­ing she was back in Dubai and if I planned to do any­thing with can­cer pa­tients she was on hand to help. She hadn’t heard about the Shine Your Light project, it was ob­vi­ously just meant to be.”

Brigitte is now the act­ing spokesper­son for the Shine Your Light work­shops. Her warm hu­mour and gen­uine frank­ness about the ef­fects can­cer can have on mind, body and spirit are well re­ceived be­cause she can talk from ex­pe­ri­ence. “When I was di­ag­nosed it was as­cer­tained that chemo­ther­apy would be nec­es­sary,” she says. “Of course, I in­stantly wor­ried about my hair when they say the word chemo – as a woman it’s about beauty.”

As soon as she was di­ag­nosed Brigitte knew that to keep her fam­ily to­gether through the trauma of can­cer, she would have to show strength and re­silience. As the adage goes, “look­ing good is feel­ing good,” and so she

Kate Good­win uses her beauty ex­per­tise to boost the con­fi­dence of can­cer pa­tients

Brigitte Rineiger is the spokesper­son for the Shine Your Light work­shops

Il­lu­min8 is of­fer­ing free con­sul­ta­tions to help women with can­cer look their best

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