Road to recovery

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 October, 2008, 12:00am

Support programme helps patients and survivors overcome hardships

Enduring medical treatment for breast cancer is just the beginning of a long and difficult journey towards recovery. 'A lot of women who have had a mastectomy say they don't feel like a woman anymore,' said Venus Cheng, the centre-in-charge for the Hong Kong Cancer Fund's CancerLink Support Centre in Wong Tai Sin.

'Those that aren't married will worry about how this could affect them in finding a boyfriend or husband, and those who are already married will feel guilty about how the relationship with their husband might change as a result.'

Knowing the hardships that these women go through, Ms Cheng and her team introduced the 'Look Good Feel Good' programme to the centre to support breast cancer patients and survivors in their emotional and physical recovery, reinstating their confidence through workshops and experience sharing sessions.

Social workers lead the discussions, gaining the confidence of patients before the group begins with peer sharing and other warm-up exercises. Subjects discussed include how the patient sees herself before and after the surgery and what kind of impact the surgery has had on her.

'The programme leader hopes that through these talks and experience sharing sessions, the participants will come to better understand and appreciate their inner beauty and the value of life,' Ms Cheng said. Image consultants and makeup artists at the centre give women advice and help on special bras and prosthesis, the kind of clothes they can comfortably wear, skin care, makeup, hairstyling and appearance tips - all to help women regain their confidence.

The 16-hour programme is split into eight two-hour sessions, and is open and free to all breast cancer patients and survivors on a first come, first served basis. The maximum group size is 20 and the programme is offered three to four times a year. More than 500 women have taken part in the programme, which was launched by the Hong Kong Cancer Fund seven years ago.