As if being seriously ill were not punishing enough, the physical changes that cancer treatments bring about can also take away a patient's self-confidence.
One charity, however, is in its third decade of helping Australians feel better through looking good.
Jodie Queenan was diagnosed with breast cancer in March and underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy as a result of which she lost her hair.
''For women it's a really big thing,'' she said. ''You lose your hair and you can't even do anything about that and it's awful.''
The hospital where she was treated referred her to Look Good … Feel Better, a workshop held at various hospitals around Australia and staffed by 1700 volunteers from the beauty industry.
At the workshops, patients learn to disguise the changes to their appearance using wigs, hats and make-up. They also learn how to soothe their skin when they experience side-effects such as dryness and itching.
''You put a bit of make-up on and even if you're not feeling so good, people say you're looking great and it helps you feel better,'' says Queenan.
David Dalley, director of the Cancer Care Program at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital, says that Look Good … Feel Better has been a major development for cancer patients, outside medical treatment. A lot of cancer sufferers hesitate to go out because of concerns about their appearance and can become isolated, Dalley says.
Some develop undiagnosed psychological problems as a result.
''We always talk about the advances with our treatment and how we can improve the survival of patients,'' says Dalley. ''But instead of cancers we're treating people now. There's no point having people live longer when their quality of life is not good.''
Look Good … Feel Better isn't just wigs and lipstick, it also introduces patients to a room full of other people who are going through the same thing, he says. And it helps ease the alienation cancer patients often feel. Judy Breen has been a program volunteer for the past 10 years.
''Having cancer can be an isolating experience when your family and friends can't understand exactly what you're going through, she says.
The workshops, by contrast, generate a lot of camaraderie because no one needs to pretend. Everyone is very supportive [in the outside world] but you've got to put on a brave face yourself and you end up feeling quite isolated. But when they're surrounded by women going through the same things, it's a sharing experience,'' she says.
''They find that they can have a laugh and enjoy themselves, so it's not just about the make-up.''
For the volunteers, the workshops can be quite emotional and confronting and so the organisation provides ongoing training and support.
Look Good … Feel Better was founded in the US in the late 1980s. Westmead Hospital was the first in Australia to take it up, 22 years ago, and St Vincent's was the second.
The workshops are now run at 175 locations around the country and about 10,000 women, men and teens are estimated to have attended the program in the past year.
Dalley says he has seen a lot of positive change come out of the program.
''Some of the participant's feelings of guilt, anxiety, and depression can go. And they feel like their life is worth living,'' he says.
''Patients who have done the program come away with a positive attitude - and one needs a positive attitude to fight cancer.''
A little make-up and bonding go a long way
Tennille Jago was diagnosed with cervical cancer last December, six weeks after the birth of her daughter, Charli. A pap smear from a routine check-up returned an abnormal result, and subsequent biopsies revealed it was cancer.
Jago underwent a radical hysterectomy followed by six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The treatments left her constantly tired and nauseous, and while she didn't lose her hair, she developed severe acne as a result of the steroids that were part of her treatment.
''I was really down,'' Jago said. ''I looked terrible, I felt terrible.''
One of the nurses from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where she was undergoing treatment told her the hospital ran the Feel Good … Look Better workshops, and Jago went the week after completing treatment.
She was excited as soon as she arrived.
''There was make-up everywhere, it was great,'' she said. ''They gave a little bit of an introduction on how to care for your skin and what you can do to make yourself look better.''
The workshop included women of all ages and backgrounds but at 32, Jago was one of the youngest. However, everyone bonded quickly over their experiences with their illness, Jago said, and it was a relief to walk into a room where having cancer wasn't the feature that distinguished her from everyone else.
''I think by the end of it, everyone forgot that they had cancer. It was just a bunch of women hanging out putting on make-up,'' she said.
Jago is now cancer free and celebrated Charli's first birthday last month. She plans to return to her job as a police officer in February.
''I feel great, I feel really really good,'' she said.
The story Foundations that give cancer patients confidence to face the day first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.