Curls & Chemo
Posted on 13 November 2016
This is my girl, Rey. You might recognize her from some of the group shots on my homepage or across the site. No? Take another look...
You ever walk into a place, and there’s this one girl who just stands out above the rest? And even as a girl, you notice. Yup, that's what happened when I met Rey over 10 years ago in a lounge downtown Toronto.
I noticed her for the same reason most curly-haired women notice other women – her hair. She had big curly hair, and so did I. And we just started talking. First about our hair struggles (always a great conversation starter for curly-haired chicks), and just like that we struck up a friendship that has survived many highs and lows over the years.
Rey has always been beautiful, inside and out. Like many pretty girls, though, she had self-image issues. (I mean, don’t we all?) As a little girl, she hated her hair and wished she had pin-straight hair instead. She felt fat sometimes and complained of cellulite (ummm, what cellulite?) To make her self-image problems even worse, some years back, she started dating a guy who managed to beat down her self-esteem even further. After enduring years in an emotionally abusive relationship, Rey eventually broke away from that guy.
It took a long time but Rey eventually got back on her feet after that destructive relationship. Eventually, she met someone new and thought this time, he was definitely “the one."
But that didn’t turn out to be the case. When she got diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 36 - having to quickly make life altering decisions - Rey realized that the man she had spent the last 3 years of her life with, wasn't ready to stand by her and be the partner that she needed at one of the most difficult times in her life. She realized that once again, she had chosen to invest her time and energy into the wrong person. Although she was devastated, she knew her life was on the line now and she had to fight. Even if she had to do it as a newly single woman, again.
I won’t get into details about Rey's cancer battle here. I will say that it took cancer to wake this beautiful girl up - to force her to look in the mirror, and to really and truly start to love and accept herself, for all that she is and all that she is not. And to stop looking for this unconditional love and acceptance from outside herself.
Rey was brave in face of the tough journey ahead. I’ll never forget the day we went to the salon to get her gorgeous curls chopped short in preparation for chemo.
Our girl Rey is a beautiful soul. So, as good girlfriends do, we tried to reassure her that she looked beautiful with a short hairdo and that she would continue to look beautiful even bald. As a curly-haired girl yourself, however, you can imagine what a nightmare this must have been for Rey to lose those lush locks. “It’s just hair,” we say.
Yet we all know that our hair is a part of us, an extension of us. And being forced to chop it all off in preparation for chemo is an unbearable thought. It sounds vain, but it’s not. Because as much as we might struggle with and even “hate” our curls some days, our curls are literally a part of us.
Shortly into her cancer treatment, though, I saw my friend grow into the most confident and positive woman I have ever met in my life. Following chemo, and after losing all her hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, she was able to look in the mirror and for the first time see the beautiful soul that has always lived inside of her.
Following her mastecomy, she was able to look at the one remaining breast with love and adoration. I remember she would even speak to it, saying “I love you, you’re perfect.”
When was the last time you showed one of your body parts love? We hate our breasts. Our thighs. Our stomachs. Our ..... If we express self love, it’s narcissistic. But in the privacy of our own homes, when we are alone with ourselves, is it so wrong for us to look at ourselves in the mirror from time to time and say “I love you, you are perfect”? I don’t believe so. In fact, I think it’s time we all start following in Rey’s footsteps. But let’s not wait for something as drastic as cancer to wake us up.
Love Ur Self
This is the overarching mission and message behind my company. So it felt fitting to share my friend’s story with all of you here. Rey doesn’t like to put herself out there in the public eye. She was not one to chronicle her cancer journey on Instagram or Facebook - not because she was ashamed, but rather because she didn’t want to focus on the negative. She kept things very private and only shared with close family and friends. But she has allowed me to share her story with you here, in hopes that someone out there will also wake up.
Rey's message to you is this:
You are beautiful, just the way that you are. And don’t just read that and say, “Yeah right.” Believe it. Repeat it to yourself until you believe it. Because when you don’t, life has a way of teaching harsh lessons.
Learn to love all your imperfections because these are the things that make you uniquely you. Start with your hair, of course. Love Ur Curls; but then move on to everything else!