Magic power of shimmery lip gloss

When I met with Jessica Vincent recently at LaBella Salon in downtown Russellville to learn about some of the free services she offers to cancer patients, one thing she said stuck out to me.

She talked about how devastating it can be for women who lose their hair over the course of treatment for cancer or as a side effect to some other disease. Specifically, she said, “The No. 1 thing you lose is your looks. When (women) lose their hair, in a way to them, they’re losing their looks, their appearance, and that’s a major self-esteem thing.”
Well, I admit it. I scoffed.
The most important thing you lose is your looks? Come on.
As a cancer survivor myself, I had immediate rebuttals in my head. Cancer and the accompanying treatments impact a lot more than just a person’s looks. Depending on the type of cancer and the treatment, people lose everything from their appetites to certain organs. People face long-lasting side-effect conditions that can affect any system in the human body. Surely, general health tops the list of things people lose when they are diagnosed with cancer.
But as I thought through my own objections to the idea of appearance being so important, I stopped with a jolt at a memory that suddenly sprang to mind: makeover day at the outpatient clinic.
See, when 10-year-old Alison lost her hair, she didn’t think a whole lot about it. Oh sure, I wasn’t happy, but I had a long road ahead of me, and my bald head seemed to be the least of my worries – and in many ways it was. Even after I was finally discharged from the hospital and began to merge back into everyday life, and even upon being mistaken for a boy – no matter how cute my hats were – I still had “bigger fish to fry.”
But I don’t think I’ll ever forget makeover day.
During a return check-up at the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Outpatient Clinic in Knoxville, Tenn., there was this makeover day. I don’t remember all the details – cut me some slack, it was more than ten years ago – but I clearly remember being made up.
Most days at clinic revolved around beeping IV machines hooked up to children in various stages of treatment. We were all sick – some of us were sicker than others. Blood pressure was monitored, blood was taken and given, drugs coursed through little veins and mamas commiserated and
encouraged one another. But this day in clinic was like no other. This was a day of glitz and glam, shine and sparkle.
I remember the make-up artist applying a shimmery pink gloss to my lips. She commented on how nicely-shaped my lips were – even called over other make-up artists to see. She told me how many women have to line their lips carefully just to achieve the lips I had naturally.
For all I know, she was lying outright to make a little girl with cancer feel beautiful.
But it worked.
I’ve never again felt as glamorous as I did that day with a little bit of lip stain and a generous compliment. It was a day when all the health problems and worries melted away, if only for a little while. Like Jessica said – it was “a major self-esteem thing.”
So is appearance the most important thing you lose when you’re battling cancer? No. But it’s more important than I first remembered, and I hope every girl or woman going through treatments has at least one moment where she looks in the mirror, holds her head high and – whether because of a wig or shimmery lip gloss – remembers, “I am beautiful.”

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