Argentine Beauticians Give Chemo Patients A Reason To Look In The Mirror

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For cancer patients dealing with the physical and psychological trauma of the disease, even looking in the mirror can be difficult. When chemotherapy robs your hair, it’s common to feel that a part of your identity goes missing as well.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in Argentina, after heart disease, and the country’s cancer mortality rate is the third highest in Latin America after Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago.

“Look Good Feel Better” is a program that offers free lessons in makeup and skin care, with tips on covering heads gone bald and using eye-liner to replace fallen eyebrows.

It’s an opportunity for beauticians to share their skills, for companies to donate products and for people with cancer to find some hope.

The idea began 25 years ago in the U.S., where more than 700,000 women have participated, and it has spread to Argentina and 23 other countries where chemotherapy is increasingly common. Argentina was the first Latin American nation to launch it, in 1999, and it has since grown to 100 sites across the country.

For Mariela Steinberg, 38, it has made all the difference. She’s had multiple surgeries in a yearlong fight with uterine and cervical cancer, and was shocked at first to look in the mirror.

“You see a face but you don’t recognize it as your own. But now I can say, little by little, I am beginning to adapt,” she said during a two-hour class. “All of a sudden I begin to recognize myself. I am made-up, beautified.”

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in Argentina, after heart disease, and the country’s cancer mortality rate is the third highest in Latin America after Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago, the Pan American Health Organization says.

Staying optimistic is known to increase the odds of survival, and appearance can have an outsized impact. Thus the program’s theme, “Hope is beautiful.”

Daiana Castro, a 23-year-old hairstylist with ovarian cancer, was traumatized at first. “I had red hair, beautiful and long, and when it fell out I didn’t leave the house for a week.”

Then she sought out one of the classes at Hospital San Martin. “If you have makeup on, you feel better. It helps you not to feel down,” Castro said.

Makeup tips include techniques for covering extremely dark circles, creating the impression of eyelashes, drawing on eyebrows where none remain, and wrapping headscarves so they won’t slip off smooth skin.

Psychiatric oncologist Gabriela Ozco says the program is a key part of holistic treatments.

“At first, they don’t want to look in the mirror,” she said. “It’s one of the first symptoms that we’ve noticed with patients. And the fact is that in such workshops one of the first things they do is get them looking in the mirror. So they are faced with, ‘This is who I am,’ and from there on, it’s all about getting better.”


What They Call “Conception” !


Pregnancy may be an ordinary occurrence to some people. We see women with bulging bellies, hardly able to walk straight, almost everywhere, on a daily basis. Most often, pregnancy is viewed as a consequence rather than a gift.

Few people realize what a miracle transpires once a woman becomes pregnant. Science can explain what the mechanics are, but if fully grasped, no amount of scientific explanation can entirely illuminate the real marvel of this experience.

As the girl’s body matures, her reproductive organ initiates a process called ovulation. This is when her ovaries start to release egg that is waiting to be fertilized. On most women, this happens on a monthly basis. During sexual intercourse and upon ejaculation by a man, millions of spermatozoa are released through the penis and finally to the female’s vagina where the egg sit silently, waiting to be fertilized.

Once these sperms are released, only the strongest and the fastest will be able to reach the egg; the first to reach the egg becomes the sole survivor. This sperm will enter an opening and penetrates the egg. Once it enters the egg, the sperm will lose its tail and its head will enlarge, the egg will start to enlarge as well. As this meeting happens, conception begins. The egg is now ready. It will implant itself to the uterus and if all goes well–a new being is going to happen.

As tedious as it may seem, this process roughly takes only 5-10 minutes—that is when it becomes a wonder. A most complex being, humans that is—only takes 10 minutes to generate. Cooking rice and washing dishes seems to take longer. And the best part is, as it happens, it never really occurred to anyone that it is happening. The process is so muted that even the bodies involved are not aware that a creation is about to begin or is already happening. Only when symptoms and pregnancy signs begins (usually after a month or so), that they realized they have finally conceived.

All You Need To Know About Prenatal Vitamins



For years, ob/gyns have routinely given pregnant women prescriptions for specialized prenatal vitamins at their first prenatal visit. Now, more and more docs are advising women to “pump up” their supplements even before they conceive. And with some prenatal vitamin formulas now available without a prescription, that’s easier than ever to do. But what to take?

“Women of childbearing age should be sure to get enough folic acid, iron, and calcium—three essential nutrients for keeping a woman and her developing baby healthy,” advises Siobhan Dolan, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor of Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Don’t wait for your doctor to give you a prescription [for prenatal vitamins] at your first prenatal visit; start taking them at least one month before you get pregnant.”

The catch: Who knows when it’s one month before you’ll get pregnant?

The nutrients you need

Turns out you may be able to get what’s most crucial for the development of a healthy baby from a regular one-a-day multivitamin. According to the March of Dimes, a non-profit group that works to prevent birth defects, taking 400 mcg of folic acid every day in addition to what you get in a balanced diet, before and just after conception, can prevent up to 70 percent of neural tube defects (a problem with the developing baby’s spinal cord that can be devastating). That amount is found in many one-a-day multivitamin/mineral formulas, especially in those designed for women.

During pregnancy, you also may need more iron and calcium; and since you probably won’t know you’re pregnant for the earliest weeks, it’s a good idea to start boosting your intake of both these minerals as soon as you start “trying.” For iron, the recommended intake for adult women is 18 mg per day, and that’s what you’ll find in most multivitamins. Pregnant women need more—27 mg daily—and that’s typically the threshold for prenatal formulas.

When it comes to calcium, even prescription supplements often don’t match up to the levels of calcium that nutrition experts recommend for women approaching childbearing, which is 1000 mg each day. That level of calcium makes a multivitamin pill too large. Taking a separate calcium supplement is one option, as is taking an over-the-counter prenatal formula, which sometimes has more calcium than the prescription versions. And women should be sure to get plenty of calcium in their diets, from dairy products and leafy greens.

Experiment with formulas

You may have to try several formulas before you find one you like. Some may upset your stomach (particularly formulas high in iron). Others may be too large to swallow easily.

There’s no standardization in prenatal formulas. Manufacturers can choose whether to make their product available with or without a prescription. They can include longer or shorter lists of vitamins and minerals, and even herbs. There’s no consistency in the list or amount of ingredients from brand to brand. Because the preparations can vary so much, it’s up to you to be informed: read the labels, talk to your doctor and pharmacist, and choose the best pill for you. The right one will depend on your diet, your tolerance for different pills, and whether or not your insurance covers prescription pills (if it does, they may be the least expensive option).

If you choose an over-the-counter brand, the March of Dimes recommends looking for “USP” on the label—that indicates that the vitamins have been given a stamp of approval from the U.S. Pharmacopeia, an organization that checks safety and quality. Read labels carefully. You may find that the once-a-day multivitamin you’re already taking contains the vitamins and minerals you need right now.