Editor’s letter: Maybe I’m shallow… I’m fine with that

When a friend recently started chemotherapy, one of my first thoughts was to buy her a care package… of fancy skincare products. Shallow? Perhaps. Some might say that if you’re staring down the barrel of a scary diagnosis and months of intensive treatment, what your cleanser smells like is the least of your worries. 

I disagree. 

When my friend and I first met as students, we bonded over our love of pricey beauty products that we couldn’t afford. So as well as giving her a nice treat – and the products were all recommended for people going through cancer treatment by our beauty director Edwina Ings-Chambers last month – it felt as if I was saying that I still see her, not just her illness. 

When life gets tipped upside down, it isn’t frivolous to want something that just makes you feel good. In fact, sometimes it’s essential – a theme that crops up throughout today’s issue. 

Today Rosie Green talks about the nerve-racking prospect of getting intimate with a man again after the breakdown of her 26-year marriage. Rosie’s method for conquering her fear was to embark on a body-brushing, hair-lasering, underwear-shopping regime that would have been alien to her the last time she was single. But by prepping how she looked on the outside, she was also opening up her broken heart to the possibility of letting someone get close again. 

Similarly, when Flora Watkins contacted me from a newborn intensive care unit saying she wanted to share the story of how her perfectly normal pregnancy had ended up there, I worried it might not be a good idea: her one-week-old daughter Romy was seriously ill; she had more important things to worry about. But Flora is a writer and this was the only way she knew how to process her living nightmare – she wasn’t neglecting Romy by sitting down to write, she was trying to stay sane. The result is such a heart-wrenchingly powerful piece – I hope you are as moved by Flora’s tale of her little fighter as I was. 

Enjoy the issue. 

JO ELVIN IS AWAY

Editor’s picks

A few things I’m coveting this week

Cashmere + stripes + rollneck = my perfect autumn trio. Top, £298, madeleine-thompson.com 

 Smells like holidays… makes me wish I was on one. Candle, £49, shop-rli.com

A warm, funny reminder not to believe everything you see on social media. Book, £8.99, waterstones.com