October is Breast Cancer awareness month and for this month’s blog posts, we wanted to do something a little special. Our posts this month will keep with our focus on self-care and confidence but will also feature stories from real women who have experience with breast cancer first hand as survivor, a medical professional, and a current fighter. All of these stories are unique and are meant to provide our readers with information and a connection to someone that might be going through the same thing as they are. We hope that by sharing these stories you will find comfort in knowing that while each experience is unique, you are not alone and there are other women out there who are fighting similar battles. In addition to sharing these stories, we are also releasing a Limited Edition Tinted Lip Serum this month called Sharon. This glowing pink shade will only be available for the month of October and $5 from every sale will go towards Soul Ryeders, a non-profit that helps provide resources and support to people battling cancer.
This week we are featuring Sharon, a breast cancer survivor. Sharon is a full-time working mom of one and is a former coworker of mine. I have always admired Sharon’s kindness, grace, and ability to listen and help when I worked with her. I am very thankful to her for sharing her story to my readers and so proud to call her a friend.
Here is Sharon’s story:
I was putting my 6 year old (at the time) daughter to bed and I felt a pain in my chest. That night after feeling that pain, I inspected it and found a lump. I just knew right away that something was wrong. I made an appointment with my doctor and I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at age 40 in March 2018. That news started a vigorous round of treatments that included chemotherapy and being tested for the BRCA mutation. Turns out I tested negative for the BRCA mutation and I am not sure why I got breast cancer, but I did.
I ended up having 6 rounds of chemo, going every 3 weeks to get treatment, and I was put on rounds of an immunotherapy called Herceptin, and other medicine. I was lucky that I didn’t have any major reactions to the chemo right away other than losing my hair, but the Neulasta patch (that worked to rebuild my white blood cells) did make me very sick. Ultimately I chose to not wear a wig and I opted for hats and scarfs to cover my head as I lost my hair. This was a decision I had to make on my own and I picked the option that I felt the most confident in.
While I was going through treatment, I was also taking care of my daughter. I wanted to keep her life as normal as possible but it was also important to me that I share with her what was going on. So, I had age appropriate conversations with her during my treatment and she took it well. While I wanted to keep her life as normal as possible for her, I needed to keep hers and mine as normal as possible for me. I still worked full-time during treatment and I was lucky enough to work at a very supportive company that allowed me to be flexible with work. By working full time and caring for my daughter I was able to retain some semblance of normalcy for myself as well. I think the distraction of work and trying to maintain a routine helped to keep me from dwelling on what could happen. Your brain can be your worst enemy and the best thing you can do for your recovery, self, and family is to keep a positive outlook and attitude.
Last day of Chemo!
After going through chemo, in summer 2018 I opted to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. I made this decision as a way to regain control of my body and life. That decision is an extremely personally and unique one. No one could make the choice for me and once I made my choice, I did not need to give anyone any reason as to why I chose it. August 14 is the day that I had my surgery and the day that I consider my anniversary of being cancer free.
After my surgery I stayed on the immunotherapy Herceptin until April 2019. That is when I really started to notice how the combination of chemo and medicine affected my skin. I always had clean, healthy skin all my life and almost never broke out. But I was noticing that I was breaking out on my chest, neck, chin, and near my ears more than I ever had before. I also noticed that my skin was oily and overall it had a different composition than I had before I got cancer.
I knew I wanted to treat my skin, but because of all the chemo I went through, I knew I wanted a natural product to help clear my skin and bring me back to feeling confident about it. That is where True North Beauty came in. I had worked with Heather years before and was still in contact with her on Facebook. I saw that she has posted about her new skincare company so I reached out to ask her some questions and see if she could help me. Heather told me all about her products and company and recommended a few for me to try. I ended up getting the Be True Cleansing Oil, Facial Serum, Hydration Cream, and Eye Cream.
At first when I stated using them, it seemed counter-intuitive to wash face with oil based cleansers but, it worked! My T-zone and oily skin is now under control, breakouts on my chin line are starting to go away, and my chest is clearing up! I have only used the products for 2 months now but so far I love them and the results I am seeing! They smell great, make skin feel great, and I’m loving the confidence I am getting from these changes taking place!
For my routine, I use the Cleansing Oil and Facial Serum every night before bed and in the morning I wash face and use the Eye Cream and Hydration Cream. My favorite product is the Eye Cream because of the creamy way it feels and soaks into my skin. I find that I am able to wear less make up, concealer, and primers and I notice my dark circles less and can see the overall appearance of younger looking skin.
Now I am celebrating a year of being cancer free and I couldn’t be happier! While this experience is my own, I hope that by sharing a little of what I went through can help someone else as they go through their journey. I learned a few things from this experience and if I had any advice to give, it would be the following:
Keep up with doctor appointments and listen to your body. By nature, I am not an alarmist but I KNEW deep down that something wasn’t right. People are busy with life and it’s easy as women mostly to put ourselves last behind others. It can be so easy to cancel a doctor’s appointment because you don’t want to miss your child’s activities, or it can be just as easy to not schedule a doctor visit because you keep telling yourself it will go away. But you can’t brush things away - be mindful and listen to your body. Wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry? I would - so don’t put it off! Make the CHOICE to be mindful of your needs and get a doctors opinion. If it is nothing serious you can breathe easy and not worry, but if it is serious, you can catch it early before it spreads and treat it - and who knows what could have happened if you didn’t take action right away and kept putting it off.
I can’t stress enough that you have to have the confidence in yourself to know that it’s ok to put yourself first and be mindful of your own needs, even if it is hard to do that. As a working, single parent I had to do that sometimes and prioritize things. You might really want to see your child participate in their activities, but if that is the only time your doctor can get you in for the next month, then take the appointment and GO. You always want to be flexible in life but should also know to TAKE ACTION when you need to and put yourself first before you are faced with your worst case scenario.
This past year really put into perspective what’s most important to me. It really defines life when you’re faced with cancer. Life is easy to get sucked into and you can forget what life is really about, and it took a catastrophic event to happen for me to realize it. Don’t wait for a catastrophic event to happen to you before you live your life. Live it now, because we never know what is going to happen.
Mother's Day 2018