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Haywards Heath nail tech reveals her diagnosis, treatment & journey with breast cancer

By Emma Hobday | 01 March 2022 | Feature, Health & wellbeing

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Scratch chats to Carla Fenu of Haywards Heath based salon Frankies about her breast cancer battle, and her advice for other nail techs who may be going through the same experience…

Please detail your background in hair and beauty? 

I decided to pursue a career in nails due to having the flexibility to work and be a mum to my two sons at the same time, so I trained with LCN in 2002, and ran a successful nail business for many years. I went on to add hairdressing and barbering to my treatment menu to give customers some additional services.

I absolutely love this industry and feel lucky to be able to be a part of it. Nails are my absolute passion, and it’s a job where clients become friends and it never feels like work. I am always looking for new and innovative products, and I love showing them to my customers.

When did you receive your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in October 2021 after finding a 2.5cm lump in my left breast. I did not hesitate and visited the doctor first thing the next day. I was referred to a breast clinic and within two weeks I had the diagnosis; an absolute shock to the system. I felt dread and devastation as I have lost friends and also my son’s dad to cancer.

I immediately looked everywhere for support and learned about what could be done for me in my situation. I have had the lump removed and my lymph nodes were tested to see if the cancer had spread. I am currently going through chemotherapy which is incredibly hard as it causes me to be so sick I mostly stay in bed, but that won’t stop me – when chemo is over I am ready to get back in the saddle and get my creative side back on track!

Losing my hair has been very difficult, not because of vanity but simply because people can see that I’m not well. I have two amazing wigs that my friends and family fundraised for me, so they will get me through until my hair comes back. It only takes me a minute to do my hair now, so the wigs are a brilliant time saver!

How have you found working as a nail tech with breast cancer?

Working with breast cancer was OK before I started chemotherapy, but I have had to take time off as the chemo regime is incredibly difficult, and the nausea and fatigue makes it very difficult to work. I have had to take a step back and stop working for now which has been very hard, but I would not be giving a high level of service if I was to work when poorly. Rest and recovery is vital for me to be in good health when I return to work.

The majority of my clients have been absolutely amazing and incredibly supportive. Many of my lovely clients check in on me from time to time and I cannot wait to have them back. Having cancer is difficult but the love and support I have been offered by everyone has made this journey much easier.

Do you have any advice for nail techs who may be going through the same experience?

Make sure you take care of yourself. If you are unable to work, don’t beat yourself up about it – you will have loyal clients come back and you will rebuild the client base again.

Make sure you look after your mental health as well as your physical health, as having a cancer diagnosis can be quite daunting and stressful. When having treatment remember that it does end, and although the journey seems so long, things will get better. Chemotherapy is hard but if I can get through it anyone can.

If anyone is struggling please speak to your Macmillan nurse or go to the Macmillan website; there is a huge source of information there. Cancer Research also has a great website with a cancer chat that you can post in. My beautiful friend Sophie also went through breast cancer and is still having treatment, and she has been a wealth of information for me on my journey. Anyone who needs advice can always contact me @frankieshairandnails on Instagram.

Googling can make anxiety worse, so please make sure you are going to correct places for information on your diagnosis.

Please check your breasts regularly, and attend your smear appointment – ask for a chaperone or take a friend if you need to. These services can save lives so make it a habit to regularly check yourselves.

Follow Carla on Instagram and Facebook.

Click here for the Cancer Research website.

Click here for the Macmillan website.