Pretty Is As Pretty Does

I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer that has a five-year survival rate of about 40 percent. Facing my own mortality at age 27, being single didn’t seem like my most pressing issue anymore.I started chemotherapy 10 days later, and lost all my hair about 3 weeks after that. My right breast was removed. I had daily radiation treatments to my bare chest wall for eight weeks. I spent an entire year without my right breast, feeling near dead, let alone beautiful. As I stared at myself in the mirror bald and lopsided the only thing I could do was remind myself that “pretty is as pretty does”.   Interestingly, I wanted a snapshot of myself during this time. Just a single photo in which I could see a glimmer of the old confident me would suffice. I had been searching for a photographer online when I stumbled upon www.keep-a-breast.org. Keep A Breast made plaster molds of women’s busts and auctioned them off to raise funds for breast cancer awareness. I emailed right away and days before my reconstructive surgery, I had a plaster mold made of my torso. Several months later, they presented me with my beautifully painted cast. The cast was inscribed, “No Gain, No Loss, Only Change.”

I cried when I first saw my form because it was the first time I had seen myself as beautiful since my diagnosis. Seeing myself immortalized as a work of art allowed me to appreciate the beauty of my body at that time: the balance of femininity and strength. The cast helped me see the juxtaposition of my two sides and life. It was time for me to embrace life and get my sexy back. I opted for a modified micro-vascular DIEP flap reconstruction on my right breast. After this reconstruction, I finally felt balanced, both physically and mentally. Now, I wake up to see the man-made breast, the scar from my left hip to my right hip, tattooed nipple and I remind myself- THIS IS BEAUTY.

I now run the program that allowed me the opportunity to see beauty in myself six years ago. The KAB/YSC Treasured Chest Program is a free program that provides DIY Breast Casting Kits to any breast cancer survivor who would like to make a mold of their torso at any point in their breast cancer journey (before surgery, after lumpectomy/mastectomy or after reconstruction). Here I am before you today strong and proud confident in this body and grateful for the opportunity to share my story with others. I hope you find your sexy too.

Pretty advice for others:

1. Love your body as it is right now. Be kind, compassionate, and gentle with yourself.
2. Pretty is as Pretty does. Go out and volunteer. Contributing to a cause is a great way to remember that beauty is skin deep
3. You are perfect. Plain and simple. Own it.