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“There is Nothing Called Cancer Fashion”: How a Brave Survivor Relied on Her Fighting Spirit and Took Sartorial Space to Emerge Victorious

  ❤️Tuesday's transformative #TrueStory

 

If you have never met me, I have two things to tell you:

  1. I am 4 feet 11 inches tall.
  2. I am extremely easy to spot in a crowded room.

I understand that you may have questions about my rather absurd introduction. Well, the short answer involves flamboyant clothing, a voice that breaks the sound barrier, and winning a year-long battle with cancer. The long answer, you ask? You’ll just have to read to find out!

I decided long ago that my attitude towards my daily life would be that of a person who has consumed thirty espressos – that is, an infectious energy that possibly bounces off of the walls (and every other surface of a room). In fact, it was this energy that had served as a burly bodyguard against negativity in both my personal and professional life. You could say that within half a second of knowing me, if nothing else, my glittery pink skirt and balloon-sleeved blouse with statement earrings would speak for themselves. However, my quirky sense of fashion has not always been easy to maintain – and not just because my relatives periodically descend on me like a flock of crows to squawk at my lack of decency at 30+ years of age.

The virus that must not be named landed me in the hospital in August 2020. The virus that must not be named also demanded I get a CT scan that revealed that I had…breast cancer (yes, I know it’s not the climax you were hoping for). Although I may have soon begun to rock a hospital gown, my energy threatened to hit rock bottom. So, as my body conquered cancer, my mind had to conquer its biggest rival since an ex-boyfriend who (in hindsight, unfortunately) had been a walking-talking red flag. As radiation, chemotherapy, and tubs of mint chocolate chip ice cream seeped into my cells, I had to remind myself of the energy that had been my trusted companion in all of the 31 years and 8 months of my life. I could not let it go.

 

Day of operation

 

You would think that regaining a fighting spirit worthy of a black belt in karate would be enough. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. You see, my bald head had reached the following conclusion soon after leaving the hospital – there is absolutely NOTHING called cancer fashion. In fact, the two words are often seen as having a relationship like that of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law (hint: Houston, Swati has a problem!). It was time for me to make this relationship work. First on the list…bras.

Believe it or not, my parting gift from the hospital was a set of conical bras that ghosted the needs of:

  1. My smaller breast.
  2. My desire to not have my bra proudly displaying its outline through any shirt I owned.
  3. My inability to lift my arm and wear the bra in the first place. Ironic, I know.

 

Back from the hospital

It was through trial (and lots of error) that I found comfort in front-zip bras from Marks & Spencer, Jockey, and my personal favourite, Pink by Shezeal. Now that my prized goods had a pleasant home, I set out on a search to find hair accessories. I found my destination in a full bag at H&M and a full cart on Amazon, which was paid for no earlier than two in the morning. My cupboard soon boasted of a vast collection of headbands and beanies that valiantly protected me from cold hospital rooms and colder doctors’ chambers. However, if you were ask me what my biggest fashion milestone during this period was, I would say, “I realized that fashion did not firmly demand I make my appearance respectable, but gently ask for me to respect my own appearance.”

After achieving such…enlightenment…, I stopped viewing hair accessories as a subtle means to hide what people considered the ‘uncomfortable’ part of my story. Instead, I made these accessories bigger, brighter, and a whole lot bolder until they became badges of pride that became a Tinder ‘super-like’ to my signature quirky style. After all, what was people’s discomfort was my reminder that I had kicked cancer’s a##.

 

Out of radiation

What is needed and should be easily available for breast cancer patient in terms of fashion which is necessity are Shower Lanyards to hold the drainage for those pesky post-surgical drains, Mastectomy pillows for comfort after breast cancer surgery, front closure bras, Mastectomy Drain Jackets to hide those drainage bags, and of course quirkier Mastectomy Bras, Beanies, Head Scarves, wigs, socks and tops which say ‘I f#***# beat cancer’!