“I admire them both because they’re still working; they are just inspirational to me,” says Susan Lee about her friends Sue Beresford and Jen O’Neill.
Sue and Jen were enjoying a morning tea after luxuriating through a 45-minute relaxation treatment at Yamba cosmetic skin clinic, Refresh Rejuvenate.
The skin clinic marked the end of October (breast cancer awareness month), by inviting “cancer battlers and survivors” to enjoy a free “relaxation treatment, free morning tea and a gift bag full of beautiful samples”, says proprietor Rosalie Palmer.
Sue, 49, has recently completed her cancer treatment; Jen, 56, is about half way through hers.
On being diagnosed with breast cancer, Sue says it was “quite devastating” at the time, and that the chemotherapy and radiation treatments weren’t “pleasant”, but they weren’t “horrific either – it feels really good to get through it”.
“I feel as good as I did, previous to the treatment. To be honest, I kept working because I’m a casual worker, but working was good for me, it took my mind off [the cancer]; the doctors encouraged me to work.”
Jen says they’re “lucky that breast cancer is just a little speed hump in our lives”.
“We’re getting cured … we are almost the lucky ones. There are other people and children who are so much worse off.”
Jen’s cancer was discovered after having a mammogram at the Breastscreen NSW bus when it was in Yamba earlier this year; Sue found hers through self examination. “So self-awareness is important, too”, says Jen.
The women have taken positives from the way the treatment has made them look.
“Because you have the hair loss and you wear a bandanna, you can’t go under the radar,” says Sue. “You lose a bit of privacy, so you may as well get out there and be up front.”
“I thought I looked really different with no hair, but little kids, they just see a person,” says Jen.
“They don’t judge you on how you look with no hair.”
“It’s about admiring these women and not feeling sorry for them,” says Susan.
“People do feel sorry for you, though,” says Sue.
Jen says she was sitting in the oncology ward on the day she’d shaved her head. “This lady looked at me with sad eyes; but I was thinking, ‘I’m fine; I’m okay’.
“I kept working, too, because it makes me feel normal. If I was at home I’d just be thinking about myself or watching TV.
“But at work I’m doing things and helping other people; and everything’s normal – my workmates are really accommodating and kind.”
“You don’t really get much of a choice, you have to go forward,” says Sue. “My experience has shown me that people are nicer and kinder than what I realised.”
Seven women enjoyed the experience, says Rosalie. “We’re going to make it an annual event, in conjunction with Kaylene from Zig Zag Hair”, who has offered some pampering experiences to the women, too.
“It’s nice to give back and help the community,” she says.