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Look Good, Feel Better

I’ve cried at my reflection more times than I can count.

As a gal with a chronic illness, the horror of staring into my bulging eyes, grey skin and tired dark circles so purple and bruised that it looked like I’d been hit in the face, made me scared to shower for fear of catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

But with a bit of concealer, blush, lashings of mascara and some eyeliner, my corpse-like face stopped looking so close to death, and gave me the courage to walk out my bedroom door.

That’s one of the very many reasons I love makeup.

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Retro CV, Hazel Grace style, circa 2011.

Though I rarely feel as bad as I did in the above photo, bad days still happen often.

When I feel like shutting all the doors, pulling the curtains and diving beneath a pile of blankets so heavy no one will ever find me, I take a moment to face my reflection, and be kind to it.

With brighter, more defined eyes, colour in my face, and bruises concealed, I feel human, and I am ready to be part of the world with the confidence illness all too often steals.

With this in mind, Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) is something I am immensely passionate about, and will forever sing the praises of.

LGFB is an Australian program, that offers a free service for cancer patients, to teach them how to manage the way their illness and treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy affect their appearances.

Women, men and teenagers are taught everything from proper skin care to makeup application, and head-wear demonstrations.

The program is by no means huge, and is managed by a small team of staff, and volunteer support from cosmetic specialists, makeup artists and hairdressers, giving their expertise to help these sick individuals regain some confidence.

Without government funding, the program relies on the support of corporate and community support, one partner being Priceline Pharmacy.

Though there are many ways to get involved with the wonderful program, a new makeup brush collection now available from Priceline is an exciting new way to support the cause.

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Blush brush with Hourglass Incandescent Electra blush

The high-quality, synthetic, twelve brush collection is cruelty-free, allergy-free and suitable for sensitive skin.

15% from the sale of each brush will be donated directly to Look Good Feel Better, helping the estimated 10,000 people who will take part in the program this year.

I’ve purchased the blush brush, and the angle blending brush. Though bigger than my usual blush brush, is excellent for applying blush. Picking up just enough pigment and then buffing in perfectly. Works perfectly for bronzer, or just plain ol’ powder, too.

The angle blending brush is great for blending out eyeshadow edges, or even buffing in concealer.

If you feel like adding some brushes to your arsenal, I cannot recommend these more. Not just for the good cause, but the undeniable quality.

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Angled blending brush with Charlotte Tilbury The Vintage Vamp eyeshadow palette

Not too long ago, someone online wrote a pointed comment towards me, claiming that my money spent on makeup could be better spent on mental health care.

The fury that pulsed through my veins as I read that was enough to drive a woman to break things.

Image is directly related to wellbeing and confidence. It is hard enough to suffer any kind of illness, whether that physical or mental, and lose the state of health so many people take for granted, without losing the appearance you’ve had your whole life.

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Chronic illness can changed the way people see themselves, whether they like it or not. That “I look like crap” feeling doesn’t leave.

Every now and then my usually invisible illness rears it’s ugly head and becomes visible to me. Suddenly I want to hide myself away, I feel embarrassed to walk in public. I remember people staring at my thinning hair, falling out in chunks, my bone thin frame, and my face so devoid of colour it was frightening.

So if something as small as buying a few makeup brushes can help women, men and teenagers living with cancer across Australia feel good about themselves, and wake up each day with confidence, then it feels like the least I can do.

Look Good Feel Better brushes are available online here, or in stores. 

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*These were all purchased with my own money. 

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To the friends of a person living with a chronic illness (in this case, me)

Dear friend,

I know when you first met me, you had no idea what went on beneath my skin.

I know that the first time I told you I was having surgery, or the first time you asked about my scars and you heard just how many operations I’ve had, it came as an almighty shock. Especially because I’m so pedantic about hiding my chronic illness as best I can, but also committed to being as honest as I can be when asked about it.

There have been times where I’ve felt like I’m falsely advertising myself to prospective new friends. Here you are, meeting this bright, vivacious young woman, brimming with love and appreciation for life, when underneath all that, I’m not as shiny. There are moments where I feel so far from jubilant, like I wish I could curl up and let the pain stop.

But I’m aware I’m not the only person my illness affects.

I’m writing today to apologise to you, for all the times that my chronic illness has impacted on your life.

I’m sorry for the tears you may have cried when my surgery went wrong, and complications dragged it out hours beyond when you expected to hear from me. I’m sorry for the seemingly never-ending wait where you didn’t know if you’d see me again.

I’m sorry for the times I’ve called you sobbing, crying and screaming unintelligibly as the sadness consumed me. I’m sorry for the times I’ve fainted, and you’ve had to catch me, or nurse me in a concussed state.

I’m sorry for the anxiety that has followed my physical illness, for the panic attacks you’ve witnessed, and the emotional strain they caused. I know seeing me like that must be terrifying, and so incredibly hard, and you’re so strong and kind for sticking with me while I shake, cry and hyperventilate.

I’m sorry for the anxiety that I’ve caused you, and for the toll I’ve taken on your body and mind.

I’m sorry that you have had to see me in helpless, sick states, and felt there was nothing you could do.

But I want to thank you.

Thank you for being here with me.

Thank you for sitting by me, holding my hand, and making sure I never felt alone. Thank you for your never-ending optimism, for not giving up hope, even when I felt I had. Thank you for always being there when I need you, and for bringing joy into my life when I need it most.

Thank you for being my friend, above all else. Thank you for not running at the first sign that things weren’t perfect, and instead assuring me that nothing in life is perfect, and this is small in comparison to what else I have to offer.

I want to thank you for each and every little thing that you’ve ever done for me, but writing the list would require a lifetime of typing.

There’s not a day that goes by where I wish I would wake up to a miraculous cure, where I wish that the pain would cease and my body would function perfectly, but that’s not just for myself. I wish I could take the hurt away from you, I wish I could lift the weight of my illness from your loaded shoulders.

I am adamant that loneliness is a far greater pain than any symptom my bowel could produce. The fact that I am no longer lonely is the thing I am most thankful to you for.

Sometimes people run, for the idea of befriending a chronically ill human seems daunting or hard. At many times in my life, this left me feeling unlovable and worthless.

Your friendship has helped show me that I am a person with value, that my illness means nothing in comparison to all the other parts of me, and your support has helped me grow and blossom into the woman I was born to become.

I used to identify myself as a sick girl before anything else. Thanks to you, I now know with that I am so much more than that.

You’ve helped give me courage to take on things I never thought I could do.

I am a journalist, a high-achieving university student, a musician, and according to you, I could be a part-time model (though I’d probably have to keep my normal job). The fact I have a chronic illness may be a part of me, but it by no means defines me.

Most importantly, though, I am your friend too, and I will always be there to support you in return when you need me. It is my honour to return the favour for as long as I am on this planet, or even on a spaceship, or mars, if I’m unable to avoid the inevitability of space conscription.

I don’t think you realise how wonderful you are, and how much I admire, appreciate, and love you.

I have to stress that: you are incredible, and not a day goes by where I am not thankful for your presence in my life.

Things can be really hard sometimes, but without doubt, the pain I’ve endured in my 22 years pales in comparison to the happiness I’ve found with you.

Love and thanks, always,

Claire.

This may be a personal account, but according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, chronic illness affects about half of the Australian population. 

Please be aware that chronic illness exists in many shapes and forms, and is often invisible.

I hope this personal thank you can show just how much a simple friendship can mean to a person who may be suffering more than you realise.