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Class helps cancer patients feel ‘new and beautiful’

Nina London (centre) and Pals executive director Colleen DeGrilla (front right) are the organisers of New and Beautiful Me, a class to empower women battling cancer (Photograph supplied)

A cancer survivor who swam 2km to help women battling the disease has made good on her promise to help them feel “new and beautiful”.

Nina London put the $5,000 she raised through her charity swim off Shelly Bay Beach last November 21 towards a class where women with cancer learn hair and make-up tips from industry professionals.

“It’s to boost their confidence and help them feel good about themselves,” she said. “We are trying wigs and different headscarves, there is a make-up tutorial … It should be very, very exciting because it's the first programme in Bermuda and I think we need that.”

The idea came from a group she joined in Miami, Florida while battling uterine cancer six years ago.

“I went through this experience and it was very, very harsh. It was very hard for me to look at myself and feel how I normally do. I think it's very hard for anyone with cancer but it’s even harder for women.

“I lost half my eyelashes and all my eyebrows. I had to learn [new beauty tips]; putting on fake eyelashes was very hard to learn until I went to this programme. So yes, I really believe it helps.”

Back in Bermuda and eager to help others, she reached out to Colleen DeGrilla, the executive director of cancer charity Pals, who said that it was something that women here had asked for.

“They said that it would be very helpful to have this in Bermuda,” she said. “There is a programme in the US but I think it's actually based on one in the UK where it’s called Look Good Feel Better.

“And so this is kind of based on that but Nina has Bermudianised it and brought it to Bermuda. When you're going through treatment and you lose your hair and you just don't feel yourself, this is something to help people feel better.”

The first New and Beautiful Me class was held on Monday. Alison Williams, the owner of Headway Hair & Body, donated the salon space and also the tutorials. The women received cosmetics paid for with the funds raised by Ms London. More classes are in the works.

“We actually tried to reach the [group I joined in Miami] but we could not reach them to do the same programme and so we decided to do our own, the Bermudian way,” said Ms London, who writes a regular column for The Royal Gazette. “I think this way is more personal, there’s more personal attention and Alison organised some very nice treats.

“People can join us and learn about how to do their hair, their eyelashes, eyebrows basically make themselves feel better. It’s a makeover. They learn about make-up, about foundation because [with treatment your colouring can change]. I had yellow-green skin, very unhealthy tones.”

Ms DeGrilla’s hope is that the classes show women that chemotherapy needn’t make them feel unattractive.

“I've had patients come to me saying I'm not doing chemo because I don't want to lose my hair. And that makes me so sad. Maybe they don't think that they have another alternative. They don't think: ‘I could wear a pretty headscarf or I could wear a wig.’”

She said that Ms London, a life coach and counsellor, was determined to show other women what could be done.

“She did the swim and raised the money just to develop this programme. We couldn't do it on time because of the pandemic as the women are all cancer patients and we didn’t want to bring them into a busy environment. But now we're here.”

Said Ms London: “I’m very happy and excited to help people, to help women to feel their best.

“I remember what I went through. It was a life-changing experience; the hardest experience in my life. I just have this passion to help people. I know exactly what people are going through when they're sick, and sometimes they don't have anyone next to them to support them.”

It’s with that in mind she has made it “one of [her] missions to help cancer people, especially women”.

“I want to help them to be strong, to be positive, to be optimistic. I want to be an example that yes, you can do it and Pals is the same. We share the same vision: we will help you, we are with you. We want to empower you.”

Ms DeGrilla agreed.

“Pals is all about trying to improve everybody's quality of life while they have cancer. We love new programmes and doing anything we can do to help patients feel better while they're undergoing treatment.”

For information on the next New and Beautiful Me class contact Pals on 236-7257 or info@pals.bm.

“We've been posting it on Facebook, we've put it on Instagram, but I keep the list on my computer so they can sign up for the next one, which will probably be in January,” Ms DeGrilla said.

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Published October 10, 2022 at 7:00 am (Updated October 11, 2022 at 6:15 am)

Class helps cancer patients feel ‘new and beautiful’

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