October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is dominating health headlines, the importance of finding a cure for breast cancer looms large, as a diagnosis impacts both physical and emotional health. The Town Crier asked a local esthetician, Terrie Absher of Total Glow, over email about her experience working with breast cancer patients who come to her post-treatment.
Q: Discuss your experience treating breast cancer patients.
A: Breast cancer affects an estimated one in eight women in their lifetime, so it’s unfortunately something that impacts everyone at some point in their lives, directly or indirectly. We’ve personally seen the impact it has on our clients, family, friends and community. As we know, cancer in general, including breast cancer, affects lives so drastically not just through the direct medical implications from the cancer and its treatments, but also the emotional and whole-body stress on a person, their personal and professional relationships and the relationship they have with themselves.
When one of our clients is going through treatment or comes to us post-treatment, we’re looking at helping them not just in the area of restoring the health of the skin, but also to be a resource for them to find some normalcy in their life by offering support wherever they need it. We talk to our clients about what we can do to support them and how to get back on track to good health and well-being, so they feel support for the life that they want to live. I have a really close relationship with my clients, and I like to understand their support network, the lifestyle they want to live and how I can best help them achieve their goals, whether directly with us or through another provider.
Q: What specific challenges do breast cancer patients face after treatment?
A: First, there’s the direct ways that treatment itself can cause long-lasting physical damage and strain on the body. It affects everything from loss of muscle tone to skin health. With breast cancer, the entire process upends a person’s life, from diagnosis all the way through treatment and post-cancer life. It puts a strain on a person’s health, their personal and business relationships and their overall well-being. This is why it’s so important that survivors are not only supported in their physical health, but that they have a strong support network and community.
Q: What are the effects of radiation and chemotherapy treatment on skin?
A: Treatment for cancer, like radiation and chemotherapy, damages healthy cells along with the targeted cancerous cells. When I see clients after they have undergone radiation or chemotherapy, their skin is generally very compromised, thin and delicate. This often looks like skin that has laxity and is dry and dull. The foundation of the skin is lacking and needs to be rebuilt, which we focus on. When the skin is compromised to such a high degree, it’s difficult to restore it without professional intervention, as the compromised skin can’t hold moisture or get the full benefit of applied topical products and treatments.
During treatment, the skin’s essential vitamins are depleted at such high levels that it is impossible to replenish them purely through nutrition. When I see a client post-cancer treatment, we often start off focusing on how to replenish these vitamins safely and effectively through the right skin-care products, while also ensuring that the diet is optimized for their needs.
Q: What do patients seek when they come to you, and what is your usual course of action?
A: After cancer treatment, when the skin is compromised and dull, thin and/or lax and lined, clients will come in looking to restore the health of the skin as they try to return to some normalcy in their life.
Skin-care treatments for breast cancer patients should be very gentle and focus on building the foundation of the skin with essential topical vitamins. The treatments I recommend will vary depending on how aggressive the breast cancer treatment a client received. The product choice plays a huge part in the treatment as well as the service. This is about building, restoring and vitalizing the skin, which is our normal course of treatment without some of the more active treatments that could worsen their skin condition. We want treatments to be natural and healthful.
My common recommended course of action is the Environ DF II machine, which infuses the skin with essential vitamins and nutrients. This treatment is really impactful for cancer survivors because it helps the compromised skin absorb and hold the beneficial ingredients up to 4,000% more than a regular topical skin-care treatment. When skin is compromised to such a high degree, purely topical application of beneficial ingredients isn’t as effective, as the skin’s permeability and ability to absorb and hold moisture is compromised. Along with the Environ DF II treatment, I’ll recommend specific products based on an individual’s needs and goals. This often includes gentle skin-care products and products that restore essential vitamins, like the form of vitamin A that can be used during the day and not the retinoic acid of retinol.
Q: What advice do you have for life after treatment for survivors of breast cancer?
A: My biggest piece of advice for breast cancer survivors is to really take the time to do what you need to feel restored, positive and confident. Breast cancer takes a toll on every aspect of your life, so getting back to feeling like you did previously can take time and help from others. No one can dictate what that looks like for someone personally. If it is about getting back skin health and muscle tone, we can provide clinical and holistic services in a positive, relaxing wellness environment. We want to help be the support that is needed.
Q: What is the importance of spreading awareness for breast cancer this month?
A: Because breast cancer is tragically so common, it can fade in the background as an issue, especially this year. Due to
COVID-19, many people are delaying their annual screenings, which is a really scary thought. So this year more than ever, it’s important to take the time and focus on this issue and promote the resources and services that are available to fighters, survivors and those with loved ones who have been diagnosed.
My team and I are recognizing the fighters, survivors and those we have lost throughout the month of October. We’re participating in a Breast Cancer Walk and fundraising throughout the month for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which uses funds to meet the most critical needs of those affected by breast cancer, including investing in breakthrough research to find a cure.
For more information on Absher’s skin-care services, visit totalglow.com.