Books

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Pretty Sick: The Beauty Guide for Women with Cancer’ by Caitlin M. Kiernan

c.2017, Grand Central Life & Style
$19.99 ($25.99 Canada)
272 pages

Oh, that’s not good.

There’s more hair on your shower drain than there is on your head. Not good at all, but thanks, Chemo, for that and for dry skin, no eyebrows, weight fluctuations, and brittle nails. You’re trying to get better; looking better shouldn’t be so impossible. With “Pretty Sick” by Caitlin M. Kiernan, though, you’ll look primo despite chemo.

So, the diagnosis is in. You’ve got cancer and you’re no dummy: you know what’s about to happen, to the inside of you and the outside. So how do you take care of the former, while keeping the latter looking great?

First of all, says Kiernan: smell.

Yes, chemotherapy might affect your sense of smell and your taste buds. You’ll want to avoid your favorite foods on chemo day, and set aside your usual scented lotions for now. Look for a second-best to get you through, and return to your faves after treatment is over and your olfactory sense returns.

The subject of hair is touchy, but it’s something that can be easily handled. Wigs today are stylishly realistic, hats are fashionable, scarves look great if you wear them right. Shop for these things now while you still have hair or, if thinning is what’s to come, talk to a stylist. Remember: it’s only hair. It’ll come back.

It might sound like just another thing, but make an appointment with your dentist before starting treatment and know how to make “magic mouthwash” to combat mouth sores. Be willing to experiment with make-up; if you can, get a makeover or, at the very least, ask for samples of product you can try at home. Go a little crazy. Have fun with it.

As for your skin, yes, chemotherapy will change that, too, so beware. Now’s the time to consider changing your morning routine with different cleansers and products, but think twice before going “organic.” Showers are always better than baths, and be sure to slather on moisturizer once you’ve patted yourself dry. There are also lots of great products to use if you’ll have radiation, but talk to your doctor or oncologist first.

I was very happy to see that warning inside “Pretty Sick.” I was happy, in fact, to see that author Caitlin M. Kiernan is careful to caution her readers on just about everything in this book, which makes it even more helpful.

So, does the fact that Kiernan herself is a cancer survivor, which gives her words a been-there-done-that ring of truth – not just for beauty, but in dressing comfortably, finding a surgeon, reconstruction, and reclaiming a healthy sex life, all with purpose and strength. Also, nice: while her examples do have a certain big-city tone to them and there’s a lot of celeb name-dropping, the tips and advice are totally down-to-earth.

And on that note, while this book was written for cancer survivors, it could be helpful for any woman facing serious illness. If you want to look great when you’re not feeling it so much, “Pretty Sick” is pretty good.

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