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Strength in Numbers

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Support groups are an effective way to diminish the distress associated with cancer, particularly the distress arising from the changes in physical appearance that occur during treatment

Support groups are an effective way to diminish the distress associated with cancer, particularly the distress arising from the changes in physical appearance that occur during treatment.

My friend Debbie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, became a solid believer in her cancer support group. She told me participants not only encouraged one another to face the many challenges in fighting this disease, but they also found solace in sharing ideas about ways to camouflage the appearance-related side effects of their treatments; for example, hair loss.

As an alternative to wearing a wig, some women in Debbie's group liked to create unusual head wraps with colourful scarves and turbans. They showed the others how to use a 26-inch (66-cm) or 28-inch (71-cm) square scarf as a basic head wrap; for more elaborate looks, they used larger scarves, up to 35 inches (90 cm). They mixed and matched contrasting colours and prints by using more than one scarf. Or, they used a hat to complement a basic head wrap.

One of the hats that Debbie once needed now sits on the head of the scarecrow in her vegetable garden, as a symbol of her triumph over the disease, and as a tender reminder of her helpful group support.

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