4 years ago when Dana, of Ana Ono Intimates, contacted me asking me to write a blog about her bra line, I never imagined one day it would manifest itself on a runway in New York City Fashion Week. My blog has been my outlet to be honest and truthful about every challenge I have experienced since the day I was diagnosed, all while sharing useful tips and tricks for how to get through cancer treatments. Whether I was on a high, or a low, or sharing a bra that made me feel beautiful again, I have always felt the importance in expressing the complete rawness of what it has been like to endure a cancer diagnosis at a young age. Most who know me well, know I wear my heart on my sleeve, I am honest, and I am extremely shy when put in vulnerable situations.
There were lots of highs and few lows through out my weekend in New York. Mainly highs - like highs so high it didnt even feel like real life. I am looking back and realizing that the lows were my anxieties putting a block up. It was my shyness, it was backing myself in to a corner because I was scared or nervous - something I do that most people don’t really understand about me. I have been blessed with incredible, life changing opportunities that have continued to alter my outlook on life. I am constantly reevaluating the person that I am and doing my best to accept I am not the Jen I was before cancer. There are these parts of me that are still very much there - like that introverted girl that I have realized is sort of a hidden gem because its raw and its me being real - and then there are moments like this weekend where I surprise myself.
These are the moments in life, these amazing, unforgettable moments that I wont ever take for grant it. Each one of those moments, I take something away, and I learn something about myself. Sometimes, that old Jen comes out and its refreshing to know that I am still in there somewhere. Most of us who experience a cancer diagnosis go through a grieving process of those 5 challenging steps. There’s denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Denial - did I really just have cancer? Did I really just lose my hair, and my breasts, and WHO AM I NOW? Anger - Why did that just happen to me? What did I do to deserve the hell I just had to go through - am I doomed? Bargaining…if I do this, I will change that. If I eat better, if I pray, if I work out, if I do all these things for others, then surely my cancer wont come back (obviously not the case). Depression. Yah Ive been there a lot. Depression (and anxiety) involves all of those previous thoughts swirling through my head on a daily basis. Sometimes I can take control of them, and others I cant. Sometimes, I lose friends and I have survivors guilt or I wonder when will that be me? My fears are a battle that I have deep conversations with every single day.
And then there is “Acceptance”. Acceptance that we endured a traumatic event in life and how can we move forward living the best life possible. Acceptance that we are discovering who we are on daily basis, acceptance in who that person is, acceptance in being CONFIDENT in the person we are discovering, and acceptance that we have to embrace every single day, and every single moment as if it were our last. We have to find acceptance that our bodies are forever changed and then embrace that change. Most importantly, we accept that we were given a platform to change the way that others see beauty, the way others see confidence, and the way others have stereotyped breast cancer as the “easy” or “pretty” cancer. Acceptance that we are the dangerous ones, the ones who speak up, the ones who advocate for those who can no longer.
I assure you there is nothing “pretty” about any sort of cancer. Breast cancer is not a “boob job”. Breast cancer is not “curable”. Breast cancer is not “easy” and it is certainly not “pretty”. I was asked what this fashion show meant to me and why was it different from the rest of New York Fashion Week. Ive sat on that question since it was asked. What is beauty anyways? Is it the 5’10 model walking down the runway in that expensive designer outfit? To some, yes. Is it the 5’6 woman who has been through hell and back, parts of her body amputated, scars left behind, who can still walk down that runway with confidence? Thats where I see true beauty. Each and every woman who walked down that run way with me has looked at ourselves in the mirror completely stripped of everything…our hair, our eyebrows, our eyelashes, and our breasts. We have had tubes hanging out of us at some point, multiple IV’s, multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, weight gain, weight loss, depression, anxiety, fear, loss. Unfortunately, we have lost too many friends who are not here to share that story…and so we walked in confidence for them all.
What does beauty mean to you? For me, it means standing in a room with women who are REAL with one another, who are HONEST with one another, who INSPIRE one another, who ENCOURAGE one another, who make a DIFFERENCE in the world, who stand in CONFIDENCE with one another, and who ADVOCATE on behalf of the our friends who are no longer here. We all took this opportunity to tell our stories and to make an impact - to change the way the world sees breast cancer. THAT is beauty. There is no judgement in true beauty. There is no comparison or jealousy in true beauty. True beauty is standing up for what you believe in and speaking loud for the entire world to hear. Beauty is seeing past the anger, past the depression, past the anxiety, past the emotional and physical battle wounds, and standing on a stage with a fierce confidence and a genuine appreciation for every single step we were blessed to take on that runway. Each foot forward was one full of acceptance, until we reached the end of the runway. It was our individual opportunity to look at the cameras, to look at the world, tell them our story, showing cancer who's in control with no words...just our eyes and our actions. We accepted our beauty, we owned our beauty, we owned our scars, we owned our cancer, and we ACCEPTED that our past is what has brought us to the present moment. We embraced this as our platform to show the world what TRUE BEAUTY is, what CONFIDENCE really looks like, and what breast cancer REALLY is. Its scars, its pain, its sadness, its loss, its fear, and its women living in strength as ONE, beyond all of that. Breast cancer is not "pretty in pink".
As you read this, please take time to educate yourself on the facts of metastatic breast cancer because the scary facts are this…1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and of those 8….1 in 3 of them will go on to be metastatic. There is NO cure. Donate to METativor, the sole US organization dedicated to awarding annual stage 4 breast cancer research, which is beyond important. Join in the conversation with #Cancerland, who provides a platform to address breast cancer’s often ignored realities. Follow them on social media and do your part to change the conversations about breast cancer. Ask questions, be curious, make a difference, help us do more to save more lives because at the end of the day, we want to end the assumptions and create a conversation based on reality.
Project Cancerland and Ana Ono Intimates provided us with an opportunity to show, not only the world, but ourselves, the reality of cancer. I assure you, this runway was filled with the most beautiful women in NYC - physical beauty, internal beauty, raw beauty, a genuine beauty you are unlikely to find on any other runway in the world. That was not the most important message though. The most important message was the women who were not here to walk that stage with us. The emotional honor we all took with us down the runway as we walked for them was an honor we did not take lightly. The message is in the truth behind breast cancer. The 1 in 8, the thousands of women dying EACH DAY from breast cancer, and the lack of funds that go towards those with metastatic breast cancer. The mission was to show the world the faces behind this deadly disease, to bring awareness to those who may not understand the truth behind breast cancer. It is not the beautiful cancer, it is not the easy cancer. It is a deadly cancer, and WE ARE ONE, WE ARE THE ONE IN EIGHT WHO WILL BECOME THE ONE IN THREE, WE ARE THE TRUTH, WE ARE…THE DANGEROUS ONES.