By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON (Reuters) - Surrounded by lipstick and eye-shadow, Aisha Quashie brushes her cheek with foundation as she mirrors makeup artist Laura Hunt thousands of miles away in London.
The 39-year-old, who finished treatment for lymphoma in March, is doing a private online makeup tutorial while shielding at her Mississauga, Ontario home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When you're going through something like cancer, you tend to stay away regardless, because sometimes you're not feeling well," Quashie told Reuters.
"But that additional isolation, just it makes it even that much harder not being able to see family (and) friends. It's definitely tough mentally."
For some 30 years, international charity Look Good Feel Better has organised workshops for people living with cancer, giving advice on how to deal with treatment side-effects like dry skin and hair loss.
While group sessions took place at hospitals and cancer support centres around the world, these moved online last year. People living with cancer are considered at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
Dee Diaz, president and CEO of Look Good Feel Better Canada, said it now offered two one-hour skin and haircare workshops with groups of six to 12 women.
"What's hard is sometimes that connectivity and now women, when they join, have the option of not turning on their camera," she said.
"Although ... within the first 10 minutes, the cameras start coming on because they start to feel comfortable, less vulnerable because they are amongst others who are facing the same challenges."
For her tutorial, Quashie received the same kit as Hunt, who talked her through techniques.
Cancer charities say the pandemic has made it more difficult for patients to reach out to support organisations, themselves facing funding cuts in the past year, according to the Union for International Cancer Control, which leads the World Cancer Day initiative held annually on Feb. 4.
Look Good Feel Better UK, which also offers male grooming workshops, says it reached 4,500 people last year through mostly online sessions and will continue to do so for those living in remote areas.
Briton Bev Francis-Green, who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in 2004, takes oral chemotherapy daily. She and her husband, a delivery driver, use different bathrooms and eat their meals separately to protect her from COVID-19 risks.
"I wouldn't ask my consultant about my skin going dry because he might view it as vanity," said Francis-Green, who did a workshop in May before her birthday.
"I'm 57 and I've never had a makeup lesson ... It was just something that was a little bit of nicety out of the whole of the doom and gloom."
(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Mike Collett-White)