Oct 1, 2023

Self-care during cancer treatment

Brittany Macchia-Cleckler applies gentle pressure during a soothing facial with lymphatic techniques.

All of us know someone that has gone through the horrible experience of cancer. The diagnosis is shocking, and treatment can be hard. The worry is overwhelming and what happens both physically and mentally can be challenging. Life changes in an instant and takes all the little things that can mean so much with it. 

Brittany Macchia-Cleckler is a local esthetician, makeup artist and cancer survivor. She is passionate about her work which evolved through her own treatment journey.

As Macchia-Cleckler learned, skin and body changes during treatments can be unexpected. While going through chemotherapy, radiation or hormone therapy, skin can become very sensitive, dry, oily, itchy and may have differences in texture and color. Aches, pains, fatigue, anxiety, depression and nausea can be constant reminders that the body is being attacked. 

“I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 23. Before I had cancer, I was the girl who got her nails done every two weeks and her hair done every eight weeks. My diagnosis brought all of that to a complete stop. As a young female, I had to find something that wouldn’t put me at risk for infection but still allow me to do the girlie things I loved doing,” Macchia-Cleckler said.

Brittany Macchia-Cleckler
Twanda Bell

Redirecting focus on something that could possibly make Macchia-Cleckler feel better at such a low time was a saving grace. 

“My love for skin care and makeup grew during that time of my life. During chemo I would watch YouTube videos of beauty blogs and would purchase some of the products they used. When I had the energy, I would try some of the new techniques I learned. Skin care and makeup were great distractions for me during such a terrible time,” she said.

It is best to stay clear of any toxins inside and outside of the body while going through treatment. Some of the things you would normally do or use can put you at risk for infection when your immune system is low. Hair and nail appointments are typically put on hold. Products once used are not always the best option or may be too harsh with skin sensitivities. Reading labels and looking for clean ingredients is more important than ever. Finding the right esthetician and massage therapist can help relieve symptoms most cancer patients face during long months of treatment. 

“When going through chemotherapy, your immune system is low, so even the smallest little scrape can put you at risk for infection. It is best to stay away from dermaplaning, microdermabrasion and harsh chemical peels. Your skin is changing, so it might be more sensitive and possibly more dry or oilier than what it was before you started treatment,” Macchia-Cleckler said.

Self-care can do wonders with self-esteem, relaxation and managing symptoms. 

“Cancer takes you through so many changes physically and mentally. You lose yourself. You hate how you look but you don’t have the energy to do anything about it. You’re doing everything you can, just to survive. As a cancer survivor myself, I fully understand the concept ‘look good feel good.’ Taking care of your body and skin with a professional that has the correct training can definitely help,” she said.  

Twanda Bell is a well-known Pensacola massage therapist for over two decades. Her nickname is “Magic Hands,” and after having a session with her, you will know why. She became certified in oncology massage and lymphatic drainage five years ago to help some of her clients while they were going through cancer treatments. Little did she know it would hit close to home when her husband was diagnosed with cancer just over two years ago. 

“As a trained oncology massage therapist, I always ask clients about their diagnosis, treatments, symptoms, activity level and any restrictions they may have. It is important to tend to every aspect of how they feel that day and what might help ease any symptoms they are having. I always want to make my clients feel comfortable throughout a session,” Bell said.

Her experience comes from the heart.

“I know from going through this with my husband, the smallest things can trigger pain and nausea. I really care about my clients and only want to help them feel better,” she said. 

Jennifer Walden is the owner of Cordova Skin and Body, and she is passionate about self-care as well.

“Both of my siblings had stage 3 cancer in their 40s. This led me to want to give Pensacola a place where clients that were going through cancer treatment could still come and have services. Oncology massage and facials are tailored to the specific needs of a patient undergoing chemo and/or radiation. Also, the products used in services are plant based and non-toxic,” said Walden.

Finding someone that has talent to help ease what any cancer patient is going through is a gift. Cordova Skin and Body is fortunate to have both Macchia-Cleckler and Bell along with other therapists certified in oncology treatments. 

“Twanda and I have worked together for years and always had a bond. She’s Magic Hands! But her heart is even greater. Brittany (initially a client of mine) and I bonded over her oncologist also being my family’s oncologist. Both are such knowledgeable, caring service providers who are also well studied in their craft,” said Walden. 

Leslie Peck is a local makeup artist, aesthetician and lash artist with almost two decades of experience. She has worked 11 seasons of NYC Fashion Week as well as several beauty shoots while living in New York City. Leslie also has experience in TV, film, print and celebrity makeup in Los Angeles. She specializes in bridal makeup and skin care education and was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in 2007.