Media Round-up for 18/02/2018

Carlos Ruiz Zafon – The Shadow of the Wind

shadow of the windThe Shadow of the Wind is a book for people who love books.  It takes place in Barcelona, Spain throughout the first half of the 20th century, a tumultuous time in that country’s history.  In 1945, the book’s protagonist, Daniel Sempere, is introduced by his father, a widowed used bookseller, to a place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  Daniel is allowed to take one book from the Cemetery, as long as he promises that he will preserve the book and its story for the rest of his life.  He chooses The Shadow of the Wind, a novel by a little known author named Julian Carax.  Daniel reads the novel and is completely spellbound.  At 10 years old, he feels as though he has truly awoken to the power of the written word.  He then begins a quest to learn more about the book’s mysterious author so that he can read more of Carax’s work.  His inquiries are met with stories that someone is systematically purchasing and destroying copies of Julian Carax’s novels.  The mystery that ensues is gripping and a pure joy to read.

I adored The Shadow of the Wind.  The writing is both beautiful and easy to read, which is a rarity and even more incredible since the book has been translated from the original Spanish.  If I’d previously known nothing about the book or its author prior to reading it, I would have had no idea that it was a translation.  The characters are rich, vibrant, and easy to root for.  I have not read a novel in quite some time where I was so readily able to identify with and root for the central characters.  They became my good friends over the hours that I spent reading the book.

The mystery elements of The Shadow of the Wind are also wonderful.  The suspense runs quite high until the novel reaches its climax and the denouement, where the truth is explained from the perspective of a character that you would definitely not expect to reveal anything, is tremendously satisfying.  The Shadow of the Wind is just the right length: Zafon has not lingered on any of the plot points for too long and it doesn’t skim over any necessary details.  I would say that the only real weakness of the book is that the true villain is a little underdeveloped and, for me, his motivations weren’t particularly compelling.

If you’re a reader, you should check out the Shadow of the Wind as soon as you can.  You won’t regret it.

You Must Remember This

you must remember thisYou Must Remember This is a Hollywood history podcast written and narrated by Karina Longworth, a writer and film critic, and is probably one of the best podcasts I’ve ever listened to.  When I was sick with the virus that put me in the hospital in late October/early November it was my constant companion.  Karina Longworth’s research is impeccable and her voice and enunciation are fantastic.

The podcast generally follows a series format.  Sometimes the series will explore just one story and others will have single episodes that fit the theme of the series.  Topics that she has covered so far include:

  • Movie stars during the Second World War
  • The Hollywood Blacklist (stories of Hollywood folks who were involved in or affected by the House Un-American Activities Committee)
  • Charles Manson’s Hollywood (the most critically acclaimed series and my personal favourite)
  • Dead Blondes (or, really, tragic dead blondes)

If you’re at all interested in the Manson family (or true crime stories), the Charles Manson series is a must.  If you’re at all interested in old Hollywood or like old movies, or are looking for a way of learning more about old movies, this podcast is a phenomenal tool to learn about film history and also to get recommendations for films to watch.  Try it out sometime and let me know what you think!




Me and Prufrock’s Love Song

I love T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” It’s been one of my favourite works of literature since I first heard it read on my first day of university in the fall of 1999. My English 101: Introduction to Poetry professor (whose name I don’t remember anymore) played us a recording of T. S. Eliot reading the poem himself. His accent was odd and his reading plodding, but I fell in love with it and I’ve been in love with it ever since.

I’m not really a nostalgic person. I don’t watch movies or read books from my childhood or even think about them particularly often. I know that many point to the books they read as a child and speak about how important they were in the formation of their adult selves, but that has never clicked with me. I look back at those books and movies and TV shows with some fondness, but I have little interest in revisiting them. I don’t really consider them to be particularly important in my development as a person, even though I did enjoy them heartily at the time. I would say that this is partly because I believe I have changed significantly over the course of my life and also because I like to move on to new things: keep learning, keep evolving, keep sucking up new knowledge.

But I have lugged Prufrock around with me for nearly 20 years now. It’s really almost humorous, because for many years I spent very little time thinking about what the poem might actually mean. I liked letting the words be what they were. I became remarkably skilled at reading Prufrock aloud (mostly to impress men I was interested in), but didn’t really understand what I was saying. I’m not sure we can ever know what any poem truly means unless we ask the poets themselves and they deign to tell us. We can interpret and guess, but I always believed inferring authorial intent to be a little dangerous. These days I do have my opinions about what T. S. Eliot might be getting at, or at least what the words suggest to me.

Prufrock is a rambling and contemplative journey where a person is exposing and then accepting various truths about themselves. I did some reading online a few weeks ago and it seems that the central debate about Prufrock revolves around the “overwhelming question”:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

Whenever Eliot mentions this overwhelming question, it always seems to be something that the narrator is working up to, something that the story is moving toward. Personally, I’m inclined to think that the overwhelming question is a marriage proposal or confession of love. It seems simple, but it makes sense to me based on how the the concept appears throughout the poem.

Regardless of what the overwhelming question might be, the poem has many powerful moments that I think can speak to any of us, no matter where we might be in our lives. My personal favourite excerpt, which has been a great companion over the years and which has taken on a great deal of new meaning recently is:

“But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.”
While I have spent a good amount of time in my life being a self-important asshole, this stanza has always reminded me that, while my life may be of great importance to me and those who love me, my existence, in the grand scheme of things, is not particularly important. This is not to say that I am powerless and that individuals can’t accomplish things on their own, because I wholeheartedly believe that that is not the case. But it is a reminder of the importance of humility and that, even when you experience great hardship, the world will continue to turn without you: I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter.
Do you have a favourite poem? Is there a fictional work that is a constant companion for you? I’d love to hear all about it! Post a comment below or let me know on Facebook or Twitter!

Tips and Techniques for Self Improvement: Gratitude journaling

When I told some of my friends that I was going to start keeping a gratitude journal, most were pretty shocked.  I have a reputation for being a fairly sarcastic person — a bit of a hard-ass, but the truth is, as I’ve aged, I’ve softened up a lot.  While I still have my limits, I am a much more open and earnest person now than I have been previously.  I try to approach most things I come across with an open mind.

While I may have considered a gratitude journal to be a little too fluffy for me several years ago, I have always found a great deal of value in writing down my feelings.  I have usually been inconsistent with writing in journals, but I have been keeping some sort of blog for over twenty years now and writing has always been one of my most important hobbies.  When I am consistently communicating my ideas in writing, whether I have an audience in mind or not, I tend to feel much better than when I keep my thoughts and feelings to myself.

When I received my cancer diagnosis in November, I came to the conclusion that I would need to take a more proactive approach than usual to trying to maintain a positive outlook.  I told myself that I would try whatever I felt might work and this has led me to experiment with several new tools and ideas, but the gratitude journal is probably the greatest leap for me.  I started with a preset journal, called the 5-minute Journal, which is a daily journal with a set form.  At the beginning of each day, you are asked to write what you are grateful for, what would make today great, and an affirmation.  At the end of each day, you are asked to write out several amazing things that happened during the day and what you feel could have made today better.

This sounds great in theory, but the journal itself advocated a very particular way of formulating the day’s elements, mostly using a positive aspirational, or “magical” thinking approach.  The writer is asked to be grateful for things that they are working toward but have not yet obtained and to write affirmations that include wants and aspirations not yet achieved.  For me, this didn’t really work.  I want to look at my life and see it for what it is and reflect on that.  Right now, I need to live in the moment and be present and not worry too much about the future.

okay fine im gratefulI know that I could write in the journal as I want to, but after reading all the instructions, it felt difficult to interpret the formed journal in that way that I wanted to use it.  I decided that starting fresh, using a tool that suited my preferences for a more open format would be better, and so I settled on the Okay Fine, I’m Grateful! gratitude journal.  I am very happy with this choice.  The journal is nicely designed, looks great and has inspirational (but not cheesy) quotes on every other page.  I would say that its only real downfall is that it’s expensive and only has space for you to write for 100 days.  This is fine for me for now as I don’t write in it every day and I will just switch to a blank notebook once I’ve used this up.  It was nice, however, to start on this little journey with something a bit fancy.

I can say now that, after trying this out for six weeks, gratitude journaling is a great tool for purposefully creating happiness and positivity in your life.  Whether you’ve had a good day or a terrible day, sitting down at the end of it and thinking about what went well and what you can be thankful for is powerful.  There will definitely be days where it is easier to think of good things than others, but I would say that those are the days that you need that bit of positivity the most.

Sometimes I think it’s a bit of a shame that we need to work so hard to remember what we have to be thankful for because, for the most part, I and many of you who will read this live, at the very least, lives of modest abundance.  We have a warm bed to sleep in at night, a job where we are mostly treated well and respected, a family and/or friends who love and support us, enough food to eat and clothing to wear, and a good education.  It is easy, however, to be caught up in the web of negativity: to read social media and see news stories that frighten and frustrate us and status updates that make us envious of our friends; to be overwhelmed by stress at work; to get caught up in our family drama; to be sick and possibly dying.

When we have those moments where we get caught up in the web of negativity, the gratitude journal is an excellent tool for centering and reminding us that there is joy in both the simple things in life and in having the basics.  On even my worst days on my cancer journey so far, I have been able to write in my gratitude journal that I was grateful for a moment where I was able to laugh with my boyfriend or that I was able to receive a hug from my mother.  Sitting down at the end of the day and thinking about those moments rather than dwelling on everything that was wrong with my day has helped me tremendously with keeping a more positive attitude during my cancer treatment.

If you struggle, like me, with focusing too much on the negative or if you’re interested at all in self-improvement, I would recommend that you try a gratitude journal.  It doesn’t cost anything really, all you need is a piece of paper and something to write with.


Media Round-up for 11/02/2018

This post should have been posted last Sunday (on February 4).  I was so sick that day, however, that I completely forgot to schedule it for automatic uploading.  The end of my second chemo cycle (my fourth treatment on February 2) was difficult.  I spent most of the weekend in bed and didn’t really have the energy to do much other than read a little bit and sleep.  I hope that this doesn’t get to be a habit, but sometimes when you’re not well, you need to give yourself a bit of a break.

Joan Didion – The White Album

white album“The weirdness of America somehow got into this person’s bones and came out on the other side of a typewriter.” — writer and critic Hilton Als on The White Album.

The White Album is my first experience with reading Joan Didion.  I have not loved a book as much as I love The White Album in a long time.  A few years ago I started reading more essay collections and contemporary memoirs because I needed some media that wasn’t fictional and I needed to read words that were put together beautifully, artfully, in ways I could never manage if I typed until my fingers bled and edited myself until I went blind.  Joan Didion’s writing is everything I’ve wanted and more.

I don’t mean to sound snobby, but I don’t like reading bad books.  I don’t like young adult fiction, the trashy mysteries my mother loves, romance novels or those Shopaholic-type tragedies.  I have my sources of fluff and trash (shoujo manga and a lot of video games) and, while I love those things, I want my books to offer something more.  I want them to be beautifully written.  I want to look at the way an author puts their words together and be in awe.  This happens to me less often that I would like, but I find that essayists accomplish this more often than most.

Joan Didion definitely did not disappoint me.  In many ways she is the pioneer of personal journalism: news as memoir and memoir as news.  The White Album is a collection of essays written on various topics written for many different publications between 1968 and 1979.  The topics are an interesting mix of the death of the 1960s, Black Panthers, the Manson family, traffic in Los Angeles, life in Honolulu, the movie industry and shopping center theory.  Yes, shopping center theory.  In each essay she is informing and teaching the reader by relating her personal experience with it.

One would think that because the essays were written as long as fifty years ago that they might seem dated, but that is not the case.  I would say that many of the essays about politics and social change are particularly relevant now, as I believe that we are probably living through the greatest period of social protest and rebellion since many of these essays were written.  The personal nature of the essays also assists in making them seem more contemporary — you’re reading more than just a simple explanation of the events of the time.

I would recommend The White Album to anyone who enjoys nonfiction or essays.  Once I have taken a bit of a break from her work, I will definitely be checking out Fumbling Towards Bethlehem and The Year of Magical Thinking.  I am wildly excited to read more from her.

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

joan didion center will not holdI finished reading The White Album a good two hours before my usual bedtime.  The experience of reading it had been so powerful for me that I knew I wouldn’t be able to start reading, watching, or playing anything else that day.  Remembering that Netflix had recently released a documentary on Joan Didion, I decided that this would be a good time to watch it.

The Center Will Not Hold (bonus points if you can, without using Google, tell me which poem this references) is a biographical documentary of Joan Didion made by her nephew, Griffin Dunne, who is a character actor of some note.  It is a nicely put together collage of interviews with the subject (both recent and older footage from television interviews), interviews with other writers, friends and family members, relevant film footage, and readings of excerpts of her work as they are discussed in the film.  In general, I think it does a good job of providing an outline of her life and does an even better job of highlighting the beauty of her work and her significance in the world of writing.

What I found particularly interesting about Joan is her relationship with her late husband, John Gregory Dunne.  Dunne was also a writer and the two had an incredible marriage that seems to have been a truly equal partnership.  While they definitely had rough periods in their marriage (this is made quite clear in at least one essay in the White Album) they relied heavily on one another professionally, as mutual editors: before submitting any piece of writing to any outlet or publisher, the other would read it.  Joan stated clearly in interviews that there was never any competition between them, which I find to be fascinating.

If you’ve read any of Joan Didion’s work, you should watch this documentary.  It will inspire you to read more and if you haven’t yet read any of her work, what on earth are you waiting for?


A Moratorium on YouTube

In 2013, my New Years Resolution was to stop mindlessly watching TV after work.  At that time, I was living and working in Red Deer, Alberta and I had cable.  I didn’t have a huge package with loads of channels, but I did have the two most important channels (for me): HGTV and the Food Network.  Due to the shortage of jobs in my field (and also to my own stupidity) I had been unemployed for some time before moving to Alberta.  I was unaccustomed to working full time and, for the first few months that I lived away, it was a tough transition.  I found myself spending far too many evenings lounging on my couch, mindlessly watching House Hunters and Chopped.

These shows are fine and I still love watching HGTV and the Food Network, but I was getting bored.  I was spending hours watching TV shows that I wasn’t engaged in and didn’t really care about.  I wasn’t excited about watching them or experiencing any joy or happiness, I was just tired after work and wanted to be halfway amused without making any real effort.  This was, in my opinion, an enormous waste of time.

If you can manage it (and I definitely could at that point), time away from work should be spent doing things that make you happy.  Things to which you are devoting 100% of your attention and that are bringing you a great deal of joy.  It could be watching TV series or reading or knitting or playing video games or sports.  It could be spending time with your family or friends or your partner.  In my opinion, no free time is wasted as long as you’re wholeheartedly enjoying yourself.

I’ve been wasting too much of my free time lately, mostly on YouTube.

We have cable in our home, but I don’t use it.  Since I went back to work in 2016, I have replaced HGTV and the Food Network with YouTube.  If I can’t decide what I want to do or I’ve had a tough day at the office and I can’t be bothered to make an effort to entertain myself, I watch YouTube videos.  Like most folks, I have some weird things that I like (studio apartment tours, Van Life home tours, videos about Japanese food) and a slate of YouTube channels that I watch on a regular basis.  I will also sometimes spend hours watching videos about a topic I’d like to learn about.  Sometimes all this can be valuable time spent and can be relaxing, but recently I feel like I’m spending too much time watching recommended videos from my home page that I am not particularly engaged by or interested in.

I want to spend my time in treatment doing things that bring me joy and enrich my life.  I don’t want to waste my free time vegging out with YouTube.  From today on I am going to stop being so lazy and put more effort into having fun.  Here’s a short list of things I’ll be doing instead of watching YouTube videos:

Re-watching my favourite anime series

When I’m working, I often feel a bit guilty about watching shows I’ve already seen, reading books I’ve already read or playing video games I’ve already played.  I have a unique opportunity right now, however, to revisit some of my favourites.  I think that this will be fun, relaxing and a great source of comfort.

Playing simple video games

Normally, I play a lot of console video games; however, since starting chemotherapy, I have had significant issues with neuropathy in my hands and fingers.  This makes it difficult for me to play games on handheld consoles or using a controller.  Fortunately, I can still play simple mouse and keyboard games, such as as visual novels and adventure games.  I have a nice backlog of simple PC games already installed on my laptop that I hope to start playing soon.

Reading books

I often think that going to school for as long as I did ruined reading for me.  After finishing my two degrees, I associated reading books with work and not with relaxation.  I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t spent much time reading since 2008.  Since I haven’t been able to play video games the way I could prior to my diagnosis, however, I have been reading constantly.  My goal is to get through 2-3 books per month while I am in treatment.

Playing with my new puppy

We will be bringing home our new puppy from the breeder on February 19th.  I am assuming that house and obedience training will be taking up a good chunk of my time from that day forward.  I am so excited that I can hardly contain myself.  I have a significant update to share on our puppy situation, but that can wait until we get her home and settled.  Please look out for it.

There plenty of other ways that I can purposefully and joyfully spend my free time, but it is my hope that these will be my focus over the coming weeks.  I will still watch YouTube from time to time, but I don’t want to let it swallow so many hours from now on.  Do you sometimes feel like you aren’t spending enough of your free time doing things that actually bring you joy?  Do you have any YouTube guilty pleasures that you can get lost in for hours?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear all about them!


January Goal Review

At the beginning of each month, I will be reviewing my progress on my goals for 2018.  In order to keep myself accountable and to better work through strategies to stay on track or help me to improve in areas where I am struggling, I have decided to post a version of my goal review on this blog.  I will not be covering everything, as some of my goals were a little too personal to write about in public, but I think it might be useful for others to see how I do things.  I’ve found that reading about the progress of others and the strategies that they use to stay on track can be super helpful and I’m often able to glean a lot of good ideas.

1. Survive chemotherapy

I would say that all of my other goals are in service of this.  Overall, I think that I have been making satisfactory progress on my goals for 2018.  I have been very successful in some areas and I have been struggling in others, which is to be expected.

2. Write as much as possible

This is the area where I have been the most successful.  I have posted in my blog three times per week and most of my posts have been well thought out.  There have been a few posts that I would say aren’t my best work, but I’m mostly proud of what I’ve written so far.  I’ve also been mostly keeping up with writing one week ahead to ensure that I have posts ready to go for when I’m not feeling well.

Ideas for improvement: brainstorm more often for topics and inspiration to make it easier to get excited about what to write each week.  I may schedule a particular time or evening to spend an hour or so doing this once per week.

3. Develop a healthy nighttime routine

This has been one of the areas where I have struggled the most.  Going to bed at a regular time is always difficult for me when I’m not working and I typically stay up as late as I can and then skip my self care routine in favour of going directly to sleep.  I have some strategies in mind that I think will help with this.  I will try those for the month of February and, if I don’t see a significant improvement, I have another idea in mind that I will try in March.

Ideas for improvement: schedule a time each night when I will stop what I’m doing and start on my bedtime routine.  Use an alarm on my cell phone that will annoy me so that I will actually stop what I’m doing to prepare for bed.

4. Be financially responsible

As I discussed a few weeks ago, my spending was way out of control in December and the beginning of January.  In order to assist with getting back on track, I am doing a spending freeze.  The spending freeze is necessary now as my EI will be running out next week and my long-term disability won’t kick in for some time due to some administrative hassles.  The freeze has been fairly successful so far, but I have spent a bit too much on takeout.

5. Take care of myself physically

In some areas this has been going very well.  I’ve been drinking loads of water every day and I have been walking a little bit (I hope to work up to a minimum of 150 minutes of walking each week).  Where I am struggling is with personal hygiene.  This is mostly due to depression and not structuring my bedtime routine.  The last two weeks have been especially tough, as I had some personal issues come up that put me completely off track.

Ideas for improvement: see #3.  I think if I can get into a good bedtime routine, that will help immensely.  I see how things go next month and re-evaluate from there.

6. Take care of myself mentally

Overall, I have mostly been able to maintain a neutral outlook.   I went for my first counseling session at the BC Cancer Agency and I like the social worker that I’m working with.  The second half of January was difficult for me and I have slipped into some of my depression behaviours, such as neglecting my personal hygiene and not cleaning up after myself.

Ideas for improvement: I will schedule time at least once per week to work through my CBT workbook.  I also think that #3 will assist me in getting back on track with my journaling practice.

7. Learn something new

In January I didn’t make enough time to try out new things or start working on taking some courses that will help me along what I hope to be my new career path.  I did do some research on online learning services such as Skillshare and fortunately, a YouTube channel I like had a promotion with Skillshare and I was able to get three months of premium service for less than $2.00.

Ideas for improvement: I will schedule time at least once per week to take a webinar course on a topic that I think will be useful to my carer development.

8. Keep things tidier and work on de-cluttering

In January, I managed to tackle a few small de-cluttering projects and I am very happy with my progress in that area.  I hope that I will be able to complete a few small projects every month so that when I return to working full time, my spaces will be tidier and easier to keep clean.  I have also been moderately successful at keeping my spaces tidier on a day to day basis.  As I said earlier, I had a bit of a setback over the last two weeks in January, but I’ve still seen significant improvement.  I just want to keep this up!

9. Work outside the house at least once per week

I have done well with this, but I have been going not quite every week.  Some weeks I feel better than others and chemo side effects can make it a challenge to haul a bunch of my stuff around.  I haven’t been feeling too cooped up, though, so I am okay with how this has been going and don’t feel like I need to be doing anything differently.

I think that making better use of my planner could aid me in some areas where I’m not seeing as much success.  It can be difficult to schedule your time when you don’t feel well, but I think it will help me to be more productive and make better use of my time off.  I think I can also use my planner to help track my physical self care and try to motivate keeping up those habits with stickers and positive self-reinforcement.  As I said above, overall I’m pleased with my progress so far.  I’ve made some significant improvements and have good strategies in place to work on areas that aren’t going as well.

Are you making good progress on your goals for 2018?  Let me know what you’re doing to stay on track!

A Disappointing Workshop

Last week I attended a Look Good, Feel Better (LGFB) workshop at the BC Cancer Agency’s Fraser Valley centre (at Surrey Memorial Hospital). During our initial teaching session, the chemotherapy pharmacist at the hospital where I am having treatment mentioned to me that I should check out the LGFB program because she had found that many female patients had found it helpful. Based on a cursory look at the LGFB website, I immediately decided to register for one of their workshops, because it looked to me like it would be a session about self confidence and self care.

Rather than a presentation and discussion about how to look after ourselves physically during cancer treatment, we received a makeup and skincare lesson that just gave all the normal steps for putting on a full face of makeup: cleanse, tone, moisturize, the whole deal. The presenter read from cards that were provided by the LGFB organization and didn’t provide much further information. A few tips were given here and there, but for the most part, it was all just read from a presentation packet. There was a short discussion about wig options and care toward the end, but I would say it was only about 25% of the presentation. The most useful information for me came from other participants who had experience with wearing wigs.

I want it to make it clear that I’m not lashing out at the use of makeup. I think makeup is great and I admire those who are skilled at using it, but it’s never been my thing. I have painfully reactive skin and have to be very careful with what I put on my face. I have psoriasis, rosacea, and keratosis pilaris. I told my dermatologist awhile back that I used coconut oil as my body moisturizer and also that I was trying to go cruelty free with my beauty products and he scowled at me and gave me a list of suggested products that were basically all just Cetaphil and CeraVe. Whenever beauty YouTubers I watch talk about how gentle products are and how great they are at calming their skin, I try them and they literally burn my face. I can’t use any scented products because chances are they will aggravate my psoriasis or give me a huge rash.

Basically, I struggle with my skin. When I try new products, I try them one at a time so that I know which product is causing me to flare up. During the workshop, we were given a donated kit of products (which is huge and probably has about $300 worth of free products in it) and we were expected to do the skincare and makeup steps as the presenter read the LGFB instructions.

When I explained that I wouldn’t be able to use the products due to my skin issues, the presenter seemed quite frustrated. When other members of the group decided to forego a step or two here and there, she also seemed quite frustrated. I’m not sure why the presenter was so prickly about us not following along exactly as she expected but our group seemed to listen actively and attentively. I probably should have mentioned that the neuropathy in my hands has had such a negative effect on my manual dexterity that I couldn’t do a full face of makeup now if I tried, but I was having a rough day with it and didn’t feel comfortable disclosing this to the whole group.

The free products were an extremely kind gesture and I did get a lot of high quality skincare loot for free. Each kit contained the products necessary to do a full four-step skincare routine and a full face of makeup. The products were a good mix of drugstore and department store brands, such as Clinique, Vichy, MAC and Cover Girl. I have tried out a few of the products at home and I’m happy to have some of them, especially since I don’t have any money coming in at the moment. Not having to buy new cleanser and serum for a time will be a huge help to my already tight budget.

I guess the best way to frame my disappointment in the workshop, other than the fact that I thought the presenter was unnecessarily prickly, was that the only solution offered to the shittiness of cancer treatment was makeup. It just felt a little superficial and outdated to me. The presenter often used the phrase “feel like yourself again” but I would argue that women undergoing cancer treatment don’t need to feel like ourselves again, we need to get to know or learn how to cope with our new self. Or really, several new selves: the self of chemotherapy, of radiation and of survivorship. Sure, I might get a wig to help me feel more confident and comfortable in public, but what I really need is some tips on how to deal with looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a bald head.

This could all be a bit much to expect, but I think that LGFB could do a little better. Maybe I was stuck with a presenter that wasn’t great, but I think maybe starting with a knowledgeable discussion about the realities of how cancer changes the way you look over reading basic makeup steps from a booklet might be a better way to go.