FIVE Cork women have clubbed together to offer a wonderful support service to cancer patients.
“We just want to make people feel good about themselves and restore some semblance of wellbeing back into their lives,” says Susan Watson, who is a Pranic Healer, a practice that involves cleaning out the body’s energy channels to encourage the body to help heal itself.
“People going through a cancer journey can do with a well-deserved boost,” she added.
Susan’s companions are:
Michelle Waters, a wig specialist, dealing with hair-loss, alopecia and thinning hair.
Ethna Hickey, who provides a bra and prosthesis fitting service dedicated to women post mastectomy or lumpectomy surgical treatment for breast cancer.
Olive O’Sullivan, who offers a microblading service, restoring eye-brows.
And Eileen McCarthy, who specialises in various stages of hair growth throughout cancer treatment.
They all know that anyone who receives a cancer diagnosis is knocked for six. It can be a hard fight when a bit of something dies inside of you and you want to keep on living.
“Cancer is a physical and emotional issue affecting those around you. Relieving degrees of stress and anxiety can help everyone around you,” says Susan.
“I see the benefits when people are open to Pranic Healing, which helps the body heal itself.”
Everyone needs a circle of friends like Susan, Michelle, Olive, Ethna and Eileen, who are all willing to help to make things a little better and a little brighter when life seems grim.
Olive, who owns Browtique Cork, has helped many cancer patients feel a little more human.
“Losing your eyebrows as a result of aggressive treatment for cancer is a massive deal,” says Olive, who started her own business from home.
“It’s like part of your identity is gone. You look sicker than you feel when your face is so bare. I had a lady in with her daughter the other day who was going through treatment for cancer. When mum had her eyebrows microbladed, the little girl said ‘Mummy, you don’t look sick anymore!’ Mum felt a whole lot better and much more reassured that something small in her life had once more been restored.”
Feeling isolated and confused, away from the labyrinth of investigations, surrounded by sick people and the maze of medical experts, from care-givers who give good advice but who know they can’t heal cancer; who are you gonna call?
“We all came together to meet the ancillary needs of cancer patients,” says Olive.
She and her cohort of colleagues are the go-to girls to bring healing hope to the increasing number of people who receive a cancer diagnosis every day. Knowing that cancer patients will be feeling vulnerable, this group of women, each with their own unique skills, want to offer them the best services they can.
“We are like the helping hands, a support team that show up when we’re needed,” they say.
When a cancer patient loses their hair, they can lose their dignity and self-esteem as well.
“Suffering from alopecia, thinning hair, or loss of hair due to chemotherapy treatment or radiotherapy treatment can be detrimental for a woman” says Michelle Waters, who is a wig specialist.
“When a client feels low and less attractive suffering from hair loss, coming to our boutique wig rooms, Amare, Midleton, for a consultation and choosing a wig that suits them, is transformative.
“And they enjoy the process of trying on various styles of wigs. It can be a bit of light-hearted fun too,” says Michelle, who obviously enjoys job satisfaction.
“Losing one’s hair is a life-changing, distressing experience. Wearing a wig and looking glamorous and feeling feminine again is a great boost. Looking attractive, feeling confident, ready to go out into the world once more is a fabulous feeling.
“I so enjoy relieving the added stress of people who suffer hair-loss. It is a difficult time. We meet the person at all different stages of hair-loss and build up a trust and rapport together. It is a feelgood process. The stigma attached to being a bald woman is removed.”
Our breasts, like our hair, define our femininity. Enter Ethna Hickey.
“Like Olive, I have a lot of surgical experience working in hospital for more than 30 years,” says Ethna, who provides a bra and prosthesis fitting service, Supreme Silhouette, for women post-surgery and for women who may have breast discrepancies.
“Having breast surgery or a mastectomy procedure is a very stressful time for any woman,” says Ethna, who has many years’ experience in the pre and post operative care of ladies undergoing surgical treatment for breast cancer, from the beginning of their treatment right through to recovery.
“I was inspired to set up a private service that offers post surgical fitting of bra and prosthesis for women in the Munster region.”
Courageous women going through, and surviving, cancer continue to have the desire to live life to the full.
“There are wonderful lingerie garments available for active people who want to go to the gym or who want to go swimming,” says Ethna.
“The bra and underwear garments I provide are both feminine and discreet. The bamboo products, which are breathable, are very popular.”
Ethna says every woman is unique.
“I take care to build up a relationship with the lady who only wants to be a woman and look lovely. I can help with that!
“All I want to do is to make them look and feel better. Their world has fallen apart during a gruelling cancer journey,” says Ethna.
“Their femininity is lost and when they feel like a real woman again, wearing flattering underwear, it is a wonderful feeling. They leave the clinic walking on air.”
Ethna also helps take the pain out of the paperwork involved.
“I do all the paperwork to do with entitlements and can help complete applications for medical cards and supply invoicing for private health insurance.”
Three woman in Eileen McCarthy’s family were diagnosed with breast cancer. One didn’t survive.
“Yes, it is a horrible disease touching families everywhere,” says Eileen, who along with her sister survived breast cancer and who is a hairdresser at the Glanmire Hair Studio, where she operates the Hair Counsel for women going through a cancer journey as well.
“Often, people on a cancer journey are not comfortable going to their usual hairdresser,” says Eileen, who undertook an oncology course to understand her clients’ needs better.
“There are certain hair and make-up products cancer patients can or cannot use because of sensitivity or side-effects from treatments,” says Eileen.
“I go through options with the women and I use organic products.”
Is a visit to the hairdresser a hairy experience when you’re changing image due to cancer? Eileen smiles.
“Some people are afraid they will look completely different. Having once had a head of black curly hair, they now have short grey hair. It can be hard to deal with.”
They are in expert hands.
“We experiment with styles and colour to work the magic,” says Eileen.
“Making the most of what you’ve got takes the taboo out of it.”
Do people get upset?
“Oh yes!” says Eileen. “I’ve had wigs thrown at me!”
And she’s treated those wigs with tender loving care.
“I blow-dry the wigs so that the person feels like she’s having a special treat at the hairdresser’s.”
Eileen was able to manage her own hair-loss journey with aplomb.
“I was every colour under the sun! I embraced it all.”
Six years on from her own brush with cancer, Eileen is embracing being able to offer some light to people in their dark days.
“It is all about the person, the individual who is not just a number.”
Susan Watson is there for people who want to re-discover their mojo and mobility after injury or illness.
“Attitude is key to responding to Pranic healing,” says Susan.
“Restoring energy to clogged up channels in the body is hugely beneficial. Illness is a physical, emotional, anxious issue. Pranic Healing is a complimentary treatment, not an alternative one. Nausea, side-effects and other issues connected with treatments for cancer can be considerably lessened by restoring inner peace and balancing the body.”
The five ladies are on a mission to restore the human spirit dehumanised by the endless rounds of biopsies, scans, targeted treatments, confusion, and fear that surround a cancer diagnosis. They are intent on rescuing the resilient human spirit, making life worth living again. They are a force to be reckoned with, supporting, consoling and cheering up those who feel down, but not out.
“It was meant to be that we all linked up together,” says Olive.
“Every six weeks we meet up to brain-storm and we can refer people to each other depending on the person’s needs.”
There is safety and solace in numbers.
The ladies are the best of friends and they can ‘go to’ each other at any time.
“We are all really good friends who support each other and those who need supporting the most.”
Olive O’Sullivan, SRN, Browtique Cork, Clonakilty, 021-4193011
Ethna Hickey Supreme Silhouette bra and prosthesis fitting service, Ardfallen Medical Centre 086-8290784
Susan Watson Pranic Healing, Midleton, 087-1205829
Michelle Waters, Wig specialist, Amare Midelton, 087-3843845
Eileen McCarthy, Hair Counsel, Glanmire, 086-8290784.