CancerCare client gets glamorous makeover on BBC One show!

This week, our wonderful client Dawn McMullan featured on the BBC One programme You Are What You Wear which saw her transformed with a glamorous new look.  

Our Barrow-based therapists are currently supporting Dawn and her daughter Eve through Dawn's breast cancer treatment and she haw written this moving blog about the reasons for her appearance on the show and how Rylan Clark-Neal and his team of experts helped her see herself in a whole new light.


Why – with my low self-esteem, shattered confidence, lopsided chest and wolverine-style hair – did I audition for Rylan Clarke-Neal’s new BBC1 clothes show You Are What You Wear? I’ll tell you why. I was sick and tired of crying and feeling hopeless when I looked at myself in the mirror. Breast cancer had changed me and not for the better. Yes, I survived the single mastectomy (and immediate reconstruction) in the summer of 2018, and then the horrible bouts of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and cocktails of drugs. Certainly, I lived to tell the tale. But what was left of me? Since my operation, I’d taken to wearing my husband’s clothes. Not because I was a secret cross-dresser but because I didn’t give a damn anymore what I looked like. I felt that surgery and the side-effects of my arduous drug regime had stolen my femininity. What was the point of dressing like a woman when I didn’t feel like a woman? Reassuringly, Stuart’s clothes were cosy and big enough to hide inside, like a secret den or that place at the back of the wardrobe. I felt safe.

And yet…

About a year after my surgery, I saw a MultiStory Media advert for Rylan’s new show. They desperately needed people with ‘real life clothing issues’. Boy, I had lots of issues. Should I apply? What if I got through? Would people laugh at me? I applied. I got through. People would laugh at me. My breast implant was hard, knobbly and very noticeable. Basically, I was just not symmetrical in the place I wanted to be symmetrical. Every woman knows what it feels like to feel so off. Then, there was my horrendous hair. After months of wearing attractive Bohemian scarves to cover my bald head, my follicles re-emerged but they had holidayed on the set of X-Men. OMG. I had turned into Wolverine but not the good version – it was the wiry, curly version of Hugh Jackman, the one that lay on the cutting room floor. No wonder Rylan chose me for his show. I told myself earnestly that I was taking part to show viewers how breast cancer affects you physically and mentally but maybe the producers just wanted someone to give people a laugh. I arrived at the TV studios in Manchester in a total panic.

On the morning of filming Rylan took me by the hand, physically and metaphorically, and led me into the Mirror Room - otherwise known as THE ROOM WHERE YOU CANNOT HIDE.  Although supportive, caring and urging me to find the inner strength to look at myself, it was an utterly heart-rending experience. I’d not seen myself in a full-length mirror since my diagnosis and I did not recognise the woman staring back. My identity had been stolen, hacked away by someone on the other side of the world and sold on to an anonymous bidder. I did not know who I was. After this, the mirror was covered up and things started to get better. After being fitted with a bra that restored my old symmetry (goodbye practical and non-sexy sports bras) my confidence surged like the Severn Bore. I started to relax. Rylan introduced me to a super stylist called Lucie Clifford who explained what to wear to flatter my shape and she even told me about fabrics that help you cope with hot flushes. Then, I was blindfolded and dressed in three different outfits – such a surreal experience. But at least I was laughing and everyone treated me with patience and kindness. Moreover, I was having fun – partly because no-one mentioned cancer, hormone therapy or hospital appointments.

Finally, I was given a hair and make-up make over, blindfolded again, dressed in my final transformation outfit and whisked back to THE ROOM WHERE YOU CANNOT HIDE. Rylan was there for the Big Reveal. I felt nervous, emotional but also excited as I had no idea what I was wearing or what I looked like. When the blindfold was removed and I stared into the full-length mirror I gasped. It was me, but me from 10 years ago, in a beautiful dress and with a proportionate body shape. My husband Stuart came in and we both wept. I think the tears that we shed were from two years’ worth of pain, worry and stress. Stuart is my tower of strength but the show released buried emotions that he had protectively kept hidden from me. You see, cancer affects the whole family, not just the person with the disease.

Since the programme, I now think more positively about my clothing choices and appearance. When I was having treatment and with a laser focus on simply getting better, clothes were an irrelevance. But now, if I dress nicely and make an effort with my hair, my confidence soars and helps to carry me though the day. The entire You Are What You Wear experience was overwhelmingly positive and I proudly love my new shape. Now, at long last, I do not have to hide.

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