On April 22, 2015, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. This is a rare form of breast cancer that statistically affects 1% of breast cancer patients.
I can still remember the afternoon when the doctor called to give me my ultrasound results. I felt like someone punched me in my stomach and took the air out of me. It didn’t make sense. In my circle of friends, I was the “expert” on what to foods to eat and to avoid to live a healthy life. I did the recommended cardio per day and more. What had I done wrong?
The first few days were a daze. Looking back, I don’t know how I mustered the strength to take charge of the situation that had been presented in front of me. The first thing I did was to get a binder and organized it with tabs for all the information I was gathering. I took the news of my diagnosis as another project of mine that had a beginning and an end. I wrote down what I needed to do to fight and kill this disease.
I wanted to start my treatment right away to get a head start. I researched treatments, diets, cancer “causes” (even though scientists don’t have a cause yet). I found myself willing to do anything I had to do to become healthy again, even losing my hair.
Before my diagnosis, I’d say family and friends would describe me as the girl with the long, thick black hair. That was me. I was blessed with beautiful hair. This is the first time I recognize it. People on the street would stop me to ask if I was interested in selling my hair. Hair stylists would give me compliments on my hair. One time, a hair stylist didn’t believe my hair was real.
I had heard stories about how hard it is for women fighting cancer to lose their hair. I was bracing myself for the emotional ordeal. But I kept telling myself it was a small price I had to pay to stand up to cancer and defeat it.
When I heard of Turning Heads, I knew it was going to be another tool to help me fight this battle. When I got to the shoot, I was a little scared of not being myself without my hair. But Stacy, Debbie and Olga where so supportive and caring with me. They dressed and made me up, I felt like a supermodel. They made me forget for a couple of hours not only about not having hair, but about my diagnosis. I came out of the photo study feeling fabulous and beautiful.
Since then, I’ve had a new sense about my image. I’m not just my hair. Now, when I look at my bald head in the mirror, I see a beautiful canvas. I get to wear beautiful earrings, wear make-up, cute hats and scarves.
The love and support of my family and friends have been fundamental to my healing process. But I’d say that Turning Heads also gave me the inner strength to face cancer with a smile. I thank God every day for the people in my life. And I’m very grateful to Stacy, Debbie and Olga for offering this beautiful experience to women fighting cancer.
Photography by Stacy Jacob Photography, Makeup by Olga Morales, Styling by Debbie Green