'It was very emotional': A cancer patient gets her eyebrows back

Erica Fleck lost her hair during during chemotherapy. "You say it doesn't matter, but it really does and if you look good, you feel good," she says.

'For a woman to lose all her hair, you say it doesn’t matter, but it really does,' says Erica Fleck

Clara Budag does a microblading session on Erica Fleck, who lost her eyebrows during chemotherapy. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

After undergoing chemotherapy and losing all her hair, Erica Fleck is finally getting her eyebrows back.

The Canadian Forces logistics officer from Middle Sackville, N.S., has for the past year been battling breast cancer, and has been through chemotherapy, radiation and undergone multiple surgeries.

Earlier this month, a friend spotted a Facebook post by Clara Budag. She was offering cancer patients free microblading, a type of tattooing that uses a manual tool to etch hair-like strokes that are then filled with pigment.

"I contacted Clara," said Fleck, "and it was very emotional because for a woman to lose all her hair … you say it doesn't matter, but it really does and if you look good, you feel good.

"My hair is growing back, but not anywhere to what it used to be. Before I used to be this vibrant red head, so I still have the attitude, but not the red hair."

The microblading session in progress. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Budag launched her business, Budag Microblading, from her Halifax home eight months ago. After she decided to give one cancer patient a week, until Christmas, a free microblading session, she quickly had 10 lined up.

"I've been in Canada for almost nine years and in all these years I've been very lucky with the people around me and they've been giving me so much, so I feel like it is time to give back," said Budag, who is from Brazil.

Budag said for a cancer patient, getting their eyebrows back can be "amazing."

She starts the procedure by applying numbing gel or cream on the eyebrows for 30 minutes. In all, it can take two hours to draw in the lines and colour them.

"It can hurt, depending on the person," said Budag

But Fleck wasn't bothered during her session.

"To be honest, this is one of the least painful things this year," she said.

After it's done, Budag said the eyebrows will look very dark and need a week to lighten. Sometimes the client will have to return for touch-ups.

Photos of Fleck before and after the microblading session. (Clara Budag/Budag Microblading )

Budag typically charges $100 a session. The free offer appealed to Fleck because she has two sons at home and "like any mom I never spend money on myself."

Fleck said her new eyebrows look even better than the old ones she had before her chemo.

"They're more modelish I'd say, like the magazine eyebrow," she said. "They look real, like it looks like hair, and looks better than the drawing that I would do."

Clara Budag (Robert Guertin/CBC)

About the Author

Aya Al-Hakim


Aya Al-Hakim is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. She can be reached at aya.al-hakim@cbc.ca.