LIFESTYLE

How To Be Beautiful When You Have Cancer: Leukaemia Patient Sets Up Inspirational Beauty Blog

03/03/2014 16:18 GMT | Updated 01/04/2015 17:59 BST

Meet our new hero: 21-year-old Emily Parker, the young woman who was left wrecked by a battle with cancer, only to start up an inspirational beauty blog.

Although the leukaemia almost wiped her out after months of chemotherapy, she was determined to write about her experiences and inspire other cancer sufferers to "bring normality back" by looking good.

Emily illustrated the site with photographs of her own hair falling out and her various experiments with make-up and wigs to hide the ravages of the disease.

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The fine art student soon had around 4,500 followers, with other cancer sufferers logging on to read her hair and make-up tips.

Topics addressed on site include "Best Hair-Growth Treatment", "Top 10 Hospital Essentials" and "Goodbye Hair".

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Emily, of Uckfield, East Sussex, decided to set up her blog after she began scouring the internet to look for tips for leukaemia sufferers.

She said: "After I found out about the leukaemia I tried to look it up but couldn't really find anything. There were plenty of leaflets offering advice, but they were too heavy and I found there wasn't anything for people my age as leukaemia is more common in people aged 40 plus.

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"I decided to set up my blog as I found different brands worked better when going through chemo. I found some shampoos and hair growth treatment worked far better than others and I wanted to share that.

"I also found there were some particularly good moisturisers to use during chemo as my skin went really dry so I was having to moisturise all the time. I've always worn make-up, even if it was just to pop to the shops, so soon as I had the strength I put on make-up. It made me feel so much better about myself - bringing normality back into my life."

Emily had just completed her second year at Aberystwyth University in Wales when she was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukaemia last June.

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She spent the next five months in and out of hospital undergoing four chemotherapy sessions to counter the killer disease.

Emily, who is now in remission, said: "Just before I was diagnosed I was just feeling quite run down and I got more tired than I usually would.

"I went to doctors a couple of times but they kept saying I had tonsillitis and said it would clear up. I continued to feel unwell so I was taken back to the doctors and they told me to go to A&E where they took some blood tests.

"After a couple of hours someone came in and said a specialist was going to come and speak to me - I immediately knew something was seriously wrong. I was told I had a type of cancer called leukaemia. I couldn't say anything, I was just hysterical - I cried for hours."

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Emily's treatment was successful and as she felt better she decided to help other young cancer sufferers who feel sapped of confidence.

She began by giving tips on the best nail varnish for weak nails, recommending moisturisers for dry skin and the most comfy bras to wear in hospital beds.

Emily also documented the most upsetting aspect of her cancer battle - having to shave off what was left of her long brown hair.

Emily wrote: "My hair started falling out after my third dose of chemo and I eventually decided to take it all off at the end of September.

"Since then it has been growing back and THE ONLY product I have used on it has been Lee's Hair Growth shampoo, conditioner and treatment.

"Now don't get me wrong, this is the first time I've ever been bald before, so I have no experience up until now, or no idea how fast hair should grow, but after using this product for about 3 months (as my hair didn't grow back straight away) I think it's grown really well and it is ALL down to these products!"

In her 'Top 10 Hospital Essentials for Cancer Patients' post Emily recommended Veet Hair Removal Cream as she struggled to shave her legs whilst in hospital.

She wrote: "Shaving posed another problem. On my medication I became very shakey [sic] at times, which made shaving my legs without taking a chunk of skin off a problem. This is where Veet comes in."

She also recommended Sally Hansen Miracle Cure strengthening nail varnish for her unusually dry nails and Bastille Dry Shampoo for when showering became a problem and Palmer's Cocoa Butter Intensive Relief Hand Cream for her dry skin.

After her blog proved a success, Emily decided to take a make-up course in Brighton and is considering a career in theatrical make-up.

She's also planning to complete the third year of her degree but will have to return to hospital for tests every three months for the next three years until she's out of remission.

Acute promyelocytic leukaemia is one of the most treatable forms of the disease with a 12-year progression-free survival rate estimated at around 70 percent.

Symptoms include anaemia, fatigue, weakness, dyspnea (shortness of breath), fever and a susceptibility to bleeding and bruising.

Emily said: "I found doing my blog really comforting - when you type you can cry all you want and can carry on. I wanted to provide a place for people to go to where certain questions could be answered. I've had lots of messages from people saying how the blog had helped them and that they had taken my advice."

"I'm not saying people should be preoccupied their looks but when you're living with cancer, it is a way to feel normal again. Hair and looks matter a great deal to young women, and I saw this as a way to inspire and empower people."

To go to Emily's blog, visit www.emilyevaalice.blogspot.co.uk or follow her on twitter www.twitter.com/dippy_donkey