Personal stylist and image consultant
In late 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It took approximately three years to go through a double mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy and reconstruction. I came out the other end in 2011. In May 2013, I went in for my scan and everything was clear. I was considered in remission. A year later, I fell ill. It began with jaundice. Over the course of a few days, I found out I had Stage 4 metastasized terminal cancer in my liver, gallbladder and spine.
With my first diagnosis, the first thing I felt was fear, but I also felt hopeful. I was 34, and I had this feeling that I could do this, that the future was mine. The second diagnosis was very different. When I learned that the prognosis was terminal, it was like someone had sucked all the air out of the room. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I don’t even know if I could think.
Now I find myself giving out all kinds of advice to people who need help, not just because of who I am but because I’m doing so much research to try to save my life. It is healing for me because it helps me to not feel alone. I am contributing the best way that I can. There is nothing that would make me curl up into a ball and just accept what’s going on. It’s just not who I am.
My kids make me want to fight. These two beautiful, intelligent, funny, caring people—they’ve made me want to fight from the day they were put into my arms. They are my everything.
The one thing that cancer has changed for me in my styling business is that I remind my clients to cut themselves a break more often. Stop being so hard on yourself. Everybody has flaws. Everybody has insecurities.
Cancer has also taught me the true value of forgiveness. I am reserving judgment a little more and being a little more accepting of other people’s inadequacies. I have had to remind myself to practice forgiveness, even forgiving myself. Cancer has taught me that there’s no time to hang onto those emotions.
My physical being is often in some form of pain. I feel like I’m about 40 years older than I really am. A good day is one that’s free of doctors, free of being poked and prodded. I crave a day that’s normal. When I have a day that’s unremarkable, I’m excited.
I do feel afraid. There’s a part of me that battles that every day. I just try to talk myself through all the things that I’m currently doing to save my own life, which is eating better and diffusing emotional stress and exercising and meditating and spending time with my family. It creates a sense of control, and that eases my fears.
People sometimes don’t know what to say to someone who’s fighting for their life, but to act as if it’s not occurring seems like an injustice. We’re all on this planet for a certain period of time. If you know someone is struggling, the best thing you can say is “I’m here for you.”