One thing I never thought I’d say in this lifetime: I taught a makeup and head wrap class!
Last Monday, I ran a Look Good, Feel Better® (LGFB) workshop. LGFB is an American Cancer Society program that I’ve been volunteering with since 2014; we teach women who are undergoing or recently completed cancer therapies (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) how to manage the appearance-related side-effects of treatment. I usually assist solely with setting up and other logistics, since I’m not a licensed aesthetician/cosmetologist, but we were in pinch this month and so I rose to the challenge. I’ve run one other workshop in the past, but that one was so last minute that I hadn’t had a chance to prepare; this time, I was ready.
Hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, are parts of us that we very often take for granted and only really notice when they’re thinning or gone altogether. Most cancer treatments are very potent drugs designed to attack rapidly proliferating cells — such as hair follicles and skin cells (I learnt this in my Cell Biology course last semester!) which is why many patients experience hair loss, flaky skin, and brittle nails. It’s already so emotionally difficult to have cancer and be going through such harsh treatment regimens, that a negatively altered physical appearance can be all the more demoralising. This is where makeup comes in especially handy, and is why the program is so named “look good, feel better”.
Workshops usually begin with an air of timidity and nervousness, as the women don’t always know each other and there can be some trepidation about revealing one’s affected features. As the session progresses, however, they begin to relax and laugh — some even take off their wigs and head coverings! I absolutely love being present for these workshops, and they never fail to lift my mood; you’ll be surprised what learning to draw a new pair of eyebrows can do for somebody’s self-esteem. At the end, when the attendees leave looking even more beautiful than they arrived and with smiles on their faces, everyone’s morale is boosted.
There is a sad side to this work, too. Sessions are held on the hospital campus but are often cancelled because the patients are too weak or feeling too sick to attend, for instance. Cancer, as we know it, can be very unforgiving a disease. While each patient only receives one makeup bag, they can attend multiple sessions to refresh their makeup skills. I have yet to see a repeat attendee; for some one session is enough, and I later learn that others have gone into hospice care or are no longer with us on this earth. I myself first heard of the LGFB program from my mother who was diagnosed with cancer when I was a child. She returned home from treatment in the U.S. with a box full of goodies which, because she wasn’t keen on makeup, I often played with to my heart’s content. When I came to college ten years later, I looked up the program and found that it still existed — and so I signed up to volunteer. There are workshops for men and teenagers as well, but I don’t have experience with those; if you’re curious to know more, here is the LGFB website.
Beauty is too often thought of as vapid or self-absorbed, but it is an integral part of positive self-perception which feeds positively into self-esteem. In fact, many of us seek beautification services more often that we seek healthcare services; think about the last time you went for a haircut or style, manicure, or some other pampering. Then think about the last time you saw your doctor even for a general check-up. You’ll probably find that, like me, your beauty appointments are far more frequent than your physicals. But what if you went to the salon and your stylist was trained to notice physical manifestations of disease, be it brittle nails or a skin problem, and converse about them casually with you? And if the salon had an on-site professional who could answer any questions that might arise? Maybe even a pharmacy where you could get over-the-counter treatments?
This is the premise of UZURI Health and Beauty, an initiative being brought to life in Uganda by a dear friend of mine, Michael Kayemba. He is hoping to pitch this incredibly unique idea at an innovation event next week, and could use all the votes possible to be selected; please cast yours here! (Click on “VOTE HERE” to the left, scroll down until you see UZURI, then hit the “Love it!” button.) To see what they’re up to now, engage with UZURI on Facebook and follow along as they grow.
Jambo moja ambalo sikutarajia kunena maishani mwangu: nimefundisha darasa la urembo na vilemba!
Jumatatu iliyopita, niliendesha warsha ya Look Good, Feel Better® (LGFB). LGFB ni mpango wa American Cancer Society (yaani Jamii ya Saratani ya Marekani) ambapo nimekuwa nikijitolea tangu 2014. Tunawafundisha wanawake walioko katika matibabu ya saratani au waliotoka kumaliza matibabu (dawa, mionzi, upasuaji) namna ya kumudu mabadaliko ya muonekano kwa kutumia vipodozi. Huwa ninasaidia tu maandalizi na mipango mingine, kwa kuwa sina leseni husika ya upodoaji, lakini mwezi huu tulibanwa ikabidi nisaidie kufundisha. Niliishawahi kufundisha mara moja nyingine, lakini siku hiyo ilikuwa dakika ya mwisho kabisa kana kwamba sikuwa na muda wa kujiandaa; kipindi hiki nilikuwa tayari kabisa.
Nywele, nyusi, na kope ni sehemu za miili yetu ambazo ni rahisi kutothamini haswa mpaka pale ambapo zinapungua au kunyonyoka kabisa. Matibabu mengi ya saratani ni madawa makali yaliyoundwa kushambulia chembechembe zinazomea upesi — kama mizizi ya nywele na chembechembe za ngozi — na ndio maana watu wanaotibiwa saratani mara nyingi nywele zao kunyonyoka, ngozi kubabuka, na kucha kuvunjika kirahisi (huu ujuzi nilijifunza katika darasa langu la Baiolojia ya Chembechembe muhula uliopita!). Ilivyo vigumu tosha kuwa na saratani na kupitia matibabu makali, inasononesha zaidi kubadilika muonekano namna hii. Hapa ndipo vipodozi vinaposaidia sana, na ndio sababu mpango wa LGFB umepewa jina hilo — yaani “pendeza ujisikie nafuu”.
Mwanzoni mwa warsha, wanaohudhuria huwa na woga kidogo kwa kuwa huwa hawafahamiani na huweza kuona aibu kuhusu sehemu za miili yao zilizoathiriwa. Muda unavyokwenda, wanaanza kujisikia huru na kucheka — na wengine hata kuvua wigi au vilemba walivyovaa! Mimi ninapenda mno kuwepo kwenye hizi warsha, na hazikosi kunijaza raha; utashangaa ni jinsi gani ujuzi wa kujichorea nyusi unavyoweza kumfurahisha mtu. Mwishoni, wanapoondoka wakiwa wampendeza zaidi kuliko walivyofika na wakiwa na tabasamu, mioyo yetu sote huwa miepesi zaidi.
Hii kazi pia ina upande wa kusikitisha kwa kuwa saratani, kama tunavyofahamu, ni ungojwa usiorehemu. Warsha hufanywa hospitalini kwenyewe, lakini mara nyingi hufutwa kwa sababu kama vile waliojiandikisha kuwa wagonjwa mpaka kushindwa kuja. Kila mwanamke hupewa mkoba mmoja tu wa vipodozi, lakini anaweza kuhudhuria warsha zaidi ya moja kama anapenda kujikumbusha mbinu za kujipakaa. Bado sijaona mtu akija mara ya pili; kwa wengine darasa moja linatosha, na wengine ninakuja kufahamu baadaye kuwa wako katika siku zao za mwisho au hawapo nasi tena hapa duniani. Mimi mwenyewe nilikuja kuifahamu LGFB kupitia kwa mama yangu aliyegundulika kuwa na saratani nilipokuwa mtoto. Alirudi kutoka kwenye matibabu Marekani akiwa na kasha la vipodozi lakini kwa kuwa yeye mwenyewe hakuwa mtumiaji, mimi nilicheza navyo kwa raha zangu. Nilipokuwa chuo miaka kumi mbeleni, niliiitafuta LGFB na kukuta kuwa bado ipo — basi nikajisajili kujitolea. Kuna warsha za wanaume na vijana pia, lakini sijawahi kushiriki; kama ungependa kufahamu zaidi, tovuti ya LGFB hii hapa.
Urembo mara nyingi huonwa kama jambo lisilo na faida hai, lakini ni sehemu kuu ya mtazamo binafsi na huzidisha kujithamini kwa mtu. Kwa hakika wengi wetu hutumia muda mwingi zaidi kujipendezesha kuliko kufuatilia afya zetu: fikiria ni lini mara ya mwisho ulipokwenda kukata nywele au kusuka, kutengeneza kucha, au shughuli nyingine yoyote ile ya kujirembesha. Kisha fikiria mara ya mwisho ulipomuona daktari wako ili kujijulia afya yako kwa ujumla. Utakuta kuwa, kama mimi, safari zako za saluni ni nyingi kuzidi za kwa daktari. Lakini, je, ungeenda saluni ukakuta mrembaji wako amefundishwa kutambua ishara za ugonjwa, kama wa ngozi au wa kucha, na kuweza kuongea nawe kwa upole kuhusu hilo suala? Na saluni ingekuwa na mtaalamu wa kiafya hapo hapo ambaye angeweza kujibu maswali yoyote uliyo nayo? Na labda hata duka la dawa ili uweze kununua kabisa dawa papo hapo?
Hii ndio nguzo ya UZURI Health and Beauty, juhudi inayozalishwa Uganda na rafiki yangu mmoja mpendwa, Michael Kayemba. Anawania kuwakilisha huu mradi kwenye maonyesho ya ubunifu wiki ijayo, na anahitaji kura nyingi iwezekanavyo; tafadhali piga kura hapa! (Bonyeza maneno “VOTE HERE” yaliyoko upande wa kushoto, teremka mpaka uone UZURI, halafu bonyeza kitufe kilichoandikwa “Love it!”.) Kuona wanachokifanya kwa sasa, ungana na UZURI kwenye Facebook ili uweze kufuatilia kadiri wanavyokua.