Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How being diagnosed with breast cancer convinced a makeup artist to go green
In June of 2010 I had my surgery and it went really well. I had never had surgery in my life, so I thought I’d be able to go back to work in a week or two. I was so delusional. When I went in for surgical prep, I asked how long it would be before I could work, and they said, “Probably a month or so. You’re not going to be able to move your arm.” I’d forgotten that they’d be taking out a few lymph nodes as well. The nurses told me how to massage the scar tissue once the bandages were off, and recommended exercises like lifting a broomstick as high as possible or running my hands up a wall.
I went home the next day. My surgeon called after reviewing the slides of the tumour and said the surgery had been successful. She also said her office would be following up to schedule oncology appointments. I was like, “What?” She said I had to see an oncologist and a radiologist, so I asked if that meant I needed to get chemotherapy and radiation. “Not necessarily,” she said, perhaps to make me feel better. But that’s when it really hit me.
They said I could handle the radiation because of my age. That they just wanted to make sure the tumour cells were gone and that the radiation would be very local—but that it would probably get a tiny section of my lung. That was the first time the tears really came. After I saw my oncologist, I decided I wanted more opinions. Radiation was one thing, but chemo? You’re literally putting poison in my body. I was just angry—I was feeling so good after surgery and now you want to poison me; now you’re going to make me sick.
I got a second opinion but I was told the same thing: You’re young, you shouldn’t be going through this, but your body can take it. Basically, we needed to hit this with everything we had. I felt OK with the decision. I called a naturopath, which was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She put me on supplements to help with the side effects of chemo. I lost my hair, of course, but my appetite didn’t decrease, my weight stayed stable, I didn’t have mouth sores and my digestive system was great.
Two years later, I’m now considered healthy by the medical community, though I continue to have a yearly MRI.
My family has no history of breast cancer, though I learned that only 15 per cent of cases are hereditary. I was told that my tumour was estrogen receptor positive, which means it was hormonally driven—estrogen had become dominant in my body. Not Just a Pretty Face had mentioned endocrine disruptors and mimickers; I understood that they were bad but I didn’t understand the science behind it. Until now.
It was then that I really began to look into going green. I started having better success with the cosmetics I was trying. A few years before, I’d found a lot of natural makeup was inferior and I didn’t love the skincare, but the green beauty movement seems to have boomed in the past few years. I know some people say there’s no definitive research on things like parabens, but for me, I’d rather be safe than sorry.
When I started to get back into work, I began to switch things over in my kit. It is hard, because from a professional standpoint, we do need makeup to behave a certain way. I know there are arguments against silicone and I try to avoid it, but a silicone-based foundation is going to glide on more smoothly than a mineral tint. Aside from mascara, heavy coverage foundation and concealer, I’ve been able to switch everything over. I think more companies are trying and are eventually going to succeed in developing products that are not only eco-friendly but also of a more professional and luxe quality. I just think we know too much now to ignore it. —as told to Lesa Hannah
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