x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Sisterhood of support in the fight against breast cancer

Make-up sessions, stand-up comedy and yoga lessons are not what come to mind when you think of coping with the typical group activities that breast cancer. Tahira Yaqoob meets women who find them therapeutic.

Brigitte Neiger has received treatment for breast cancer and is an ambassador for free make-up workshops called Shine Your Light, which is offered to women who are fighting breast cancer. Jaime Puebla / The National
Brigitte Neiger has received treatment for breast cancer and is an ambassador for free make-up workshops called Shine Your Light, which is offered to women who are fighting breast cancer. Jaime Puebla / The National

Make-up sessions, stand-up comedy and yoga are not what come to mind when you think of coping with breast cancer but we meet women who find them therapeutic

Shine Your Light

Brigitte Neiger’s only symptom was a “tiny pimple” on her left breast.

Her cancer was detected in a routine mammogram in September last year and although the tumour was removed within weeks, she underwent months of gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Neiger went skiing in Courchevel with her husband, the diamond dealer Serge, 58, just days after she was told she was in remission in April this year. Now Neiger is an ambassador for Shine Your Light, a free, full-day workshop for breast cancer patients that aims to give them back their confidence and teach them how to deal with the effect cancer may have on their looks.

At the session held for the first time yesterday at the Illumin8 studio in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai, the make-up artist Kate Goodwin gave a group of 10 women tips on how to cope with hair loss and other visible effects of the disease with beauty and styling advice. The session included meditation, colour therapy and lifestyle tips.

“The effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment can cause terrible damage to the skin, hair and nails, leaving women feeling under-confident and distressed about their appearances,” says Goodwin.

She says when she first moved to Dubai four years ago, “women would come to me for private make-up lessons because they felt intimidated about going out. Being in control of how they look helps them regain control of their lives”.

For Neiger, who lost some of her hair, such pampering is essential to cope with the ravages of the disease.

“It goes beyond make-up,” she says. “I felt Kate was my guardian angel. We are all expats here and few people have family or their closest friends with them.

“Your femininity takes a huge knock when you have breast cancer. This brings women together at a time when they need advice.”

• For details on future workshops, call 050 872 8374 or email info@illumin8makeupstudio.com

Funny Girls

“We are going to pump you with important information and then we are going to make you laugh,” declares Mina Liccione.

The founder of Funny Girls, an all-women branch of the Dubomedy comedy troupe, says a show they are holding tonight will be a no-holds-barred event with plenty of jokes based on the trials and tribulations of being a woman – including gags about the female anatomy.

The women-only event at Dubai Ladies Club will feature the stand-up comediennes Mai Assaf, Sophie Samuelian, Shaima Al Sayed and Divya Lalwani, as well as Liccione, who founded Dubomedy with her husband Ali Al Sayed in 2008.

Collectively, the women represent the United States, Armenia, Syria, Italy and India, and hope their stories, crossing nations and cultural barriers, will appeal to women from all backgrounds. It is the second event of its kind after a similar show last year attracted 200 women.

“I have included more jokes about things I cannot talk about if there is a mixed audience. This is the one time I get to talk about breasts,” says Liccione.

She says the idea came to her after reading an interview with a comedienne who had been treated for breast cancer and used her experiences in her own show.

“She ended up writing jokes about what it was like to wear a wig and stuff her bras,” adds Liccione.

“Comedy is a celebration of our imperfections and they say pain plus time equals comedy. When you can laugh at your painful experiences, you can help others see the humour.”

• Funny Girls Go Pink is at Dubai Ladies Club from 7.30pm tonight. Tickets are Dh100. Visit www.dubomedy.com or call 04 349 9922 for details. Tonight’s proceeds will go to Pink Caravan, a network uniting breast cancer-fighting organisations in the UAE, and there will be a mobile screening unit at the event

Pink Project Vesna

When Laila Dajani teaches her yoga classes in Abu Dhabi this month, fitness will not be her only motivation. The Croatian-Palestinian fitness instructor has a personal reason for enlisting as many yoga fanatics as possible. Her aunt, Vesna Byorner, was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago and, although she was successfully treated then, she died in April this year from stomach cancer at the age of 62.

Dajani, 33, came up with Pink Project Vesna and will donate the proceeds from her October classes to the UAE breast cancer support group Bosom Buddies. Many attending her twice-weekly classes at The Yoga Juice have contributed more than the Dh60 cost of the class. Dajani says her aunt taught her “not to take my health, relationships or life for granted”.

• Yin/Yang class tonight from 6.30-8pm, 29th floor Sila Tower, Sowwah Square, Al Maryah Island. Visit www.theyogajuice.com for details


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