My name is Sheri Stroh and I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 36, almost 5 years ago.
As is often the case with young women, I found the lump myself. I went to my doctor, who was hesitant to have it looked at due to my young age, saying it was probably just fibrous tissue. I insisted on having an ultrasound. The ultrasound technician said it was difficult to get a good image due to dense tissue, and that it was probably a fibroadenoma (I’m sure a lot of women can relate to this story!). I was told to return in 6 months.
Six months came and went and I delayed going back for a second ultrasound. After nine months, I finally went back, only to find it had grown. This lead to an immediate mammogram and biopsy. Even the nurse assisting with the biopsy said it was probably a fibroadenoma. But unfortunately, that was not the case, and I received my diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer.
Due to the size of the tumour and the size of my breast, we decided that a mastectomy would be the best surgical option. Followingmy surgery, I met with an oncologist (much to my dismay–I totally thought the whole nightmare was over!) and that’s when it became real to me; I hadn’t worried until that point, really.
I was asked if I wanted fertility clinic info, but at the time it was the furthest thing from my mind. I asked for more opinions, and it was decided that I would proceed with chemo and radiation, with fertility treatment taking over my life for a very quick month (which was all the time we had to harvest eggs before chemo started). That whole month was a complete blur! Had I been able to think ahead, I would have contacted my naturopath before doing fertility treatment, but there was no time and we did what we had to do. All went well and we ended up getting a pretty good amount of eggs for my “aging”body (seriously–you would think I was 75, the way they talk at the clinic!).
It can be hard to feel beautiful during cancer treatment, but as a makeup artist, I knew a few tricks of the trade to help me look and feel my best. I took care of my skin and kept it very well moisturized. I used nail treatments right before chemo and used hand cream religiously. My diet was also very high in good fats, lots of nuts and oils and avocados, etc. And I also kept very well hydrated too. My makeup application was a tiny bit more involved once I lost my hair, but not by much. I focused on my skin with great skincare and then bronzer and blush and highlighter — which is all very typical for me. A little more eye make up was in order, but I didn’t really use mascara as I wanted my lashes to stay in as long as possible (which they did, along with my brows!). I had a little more fun with lip colours (I usually use pinks and neutrals or just balm) and I did take measures to clean my brushes more often, since my immune system was compromised.
I actually loved having a shaved head! I felt pretty badass. I had bought a wig and soon realized how much torture I put models through when I have them wear wigs for photo-shoots. It was uncomfortable after only having it on for about 4 minutes. I decided that since the shape of my head turned out to be pretty awesome, and I had grown up with short hair anyway, I would embrace the baldness as I hadn’t had the courage to do it before. I really did love it and only covered it up with a hat during the winter when I was outside. When my hair started growing back, I actually ended up shaving it 2 or 3 more times to keep the look before finally deciding to let it grow out. My hair grew back in pretty curly and then eventually the curl was cut out and my natural texture came back. It wasn’t long before I felt like myself again.
It was such a privilege to be able to participate in Rethink’s LiveLaughLearn beauty series. Sharing my makeup and hair tips with young women who’ve been affected by breast cancer gave me a chance to pay it forward and turn my situation into something positive.
Although it can be extremely difficult to deal with the effects of cancer on appearance, it can also be an opportunity to experiment with new styles and see what works for you. Don’t be afraid to have some fun and mix things up a bit. And if you choose to go wig-free, makeup-free, that’s awesome too! Whatever you choose, I hope that you enjoy these watching these videos and that they add a bit of colour and beauty to your day.
-Sheri Stroh, Makeup Artist
Watch the LiveLaughLearn playlist below to see Sheri in action and learn her tips for makeup and hair during cancer treatment.