Bryght CEO diagnosed with breast cancer during pandemic
I've always been obsessed with my boobs. Even at a young age in the 80's, I remember reading in Seventeen Magazine that if you slept in your bra you would get nicely shaped breasts. I begged my mom to get me a training bra, far before I ever needed one. It was uncomfortable as hell but I wore that thing everyday and every night and prayed my boobs would grow in perfectly.
In the late 90's I was working in the beauty and cosmetic industry with several skincare lines. There were boob creams for lifting, firming, and sculpting. You name it, there was a cream for it! Whether it was the myth of sleeping in a bra, or all the lotions and potions, my boobs graced the sides of buses in Italy thanks to a short stint of modeling, so something must have worked!
The men and women that saw my tatas in the flesh always asked the same question, "are they real?"
So, yes, I LOVED my boobs. I was proud of them and spent my late teens and early 20's galavanting at all the topless beaches in Italy, France, Spain and Greece. Maybe I didn't have the perfect tan but I had the boobs- flawless, perky and perfect.
May 3, 2020, I received a phone call that would change my life forever. “You’re biopsy results came back... it’s cancer” and not just cancer, but the most aggressive and high risk- triple negative breast cancer.
WTF! How can this be? I’m too young, I’m healthy, I’ve never been sick, I’ve never done a drug in my life... Cancer can’t happen to me. My world was turned upside down in the very second the doctor spoke those words.
What now? Am I going to die? How long do I have? Will I be as sick as my dad when he had cancer? What do I do about my businesses? What is this going to cost? How will I survive? Will I lose my boobs? What do I do next? The questions consumed me. I was still mourning the death of my mother, both of my businesses were shut down due to COVID19 and I just invested in a new skincare that I was trying to launch, with cancer to top it all off.
The next few days were a blur. I met with several doctors and they all gave me directions on the next 1,000,000 steps. “First we start with chemotherapy,” my Oncologist says, “you are going to lose your hair and possibly your eyebrows and lashes”
I begin to sob under my mask “this is hard for all women to hear” she says with empathy. She continues on that it will be 4 doses of a cocktail made of 2 types of unpronounceable chemotherapy, followed by 10 weekly doses of another cocktail of 2 different types of chemotherapy. This all took about 20 weeks. Then, I will go into surgery at the end of October 2020, and finally, daily radiation treatments for the entire month of December 2020. In between all of this I will have a PET Scan to see if the cancer has spread anywhere else in my body, as well as a gene test to see if I carry the "cancer gene"
I shave my head on June 14, 2020 and invested in several wigs and scarves. I purchased wigs in different stages of hair growth so nobody would know what I was trying to hide. I didn't want people knowing. I didn't want them to know that I am broken, defective, weak and totally out of control. I didn't want to be treated any differently. I didn't want to shock my staff... they were all laid off due to COVID19 and they needed consistency in their lives, not another bomb of bad news.
I hid behind the travel ban so my friends and staff didn’t question why I wasn’t flying between Vegas, NV and Vancouver, BC every 2 weeks like I usually did. Some days if I was too weak to get out of bed, I’d attend a staff meeting from bed telling the staff my camera wasn’t working. If staff tried to FaceTime me, I’d run to find my wig, throw it on and pick up the phone. I kept this façade up for over 6 months. It was exhausting and frustrating.
Cancer isn’t sexy. Cancer is bald heads, nausea, sore bones, hot flashes, rashes, cystic acne, dry skin, numb fingers and toes, nails separating from the skin and turning black and falling off. Cancer is being poked with needles, losing all your hair, lashes and eyebrows, losing your taste buds and weight gain from steroids. Cancer is cramped hands and fingers that can’t hold a glass, open a jar or even make a bed. Cancer is blood transfusions when you’re too exhausted to walk to the bathroom from your bed because your white blood cells are so low. Cancer strips everything from you physically, mentally and emotionally. Cancer is the biggest bitch I’ve ever met.
During those 6 months I was able to look at my life from the outside in. Things started to get clear, both personally and professionally. When mortality slapped me across the face, I realized it was time to make some major changes in my life; changes that never would have happened if I didn’t get sick. I am grateful that I am young enough to makes these changes and make them count instead of being 90 years old on my death bed wishing I had done things differently.
My war with cancer is not over yet. I still have a long road ahead of me filled with doctors’ appointments, blood work and daily radiation for a month. I had my lumpectomy surgery on October 30th 2020, and it was hard but I’m on the mend. I dreaded what the scar would look like for months. I didn’t know how my breast would look afterwards and the whole idea gave me bouts of anxiety. However, it is done now; the scar is smaller than I expected and I got to keep the tatas and their shape is still perfect to me. I am grateful for my team of doctors, the Canadian health care system, and, of course, my partner, Jake. He came to every single appointment with me, took notes and explained things over and over because my mind would go blank at all the appointments. He’s the one that stuck me with needles each morning, made sure I was taking the right pills on the right days, cooked and cleaned and did all of the work of 2 people. I am grateful for those few people I shared my story with that remained silent and respected my wishes to not tell others.
Cancer may have started this war but I will finish it.
Listen to the details of my diagnosis on our podcast Between both cheeks