“I’m so thankful to have these photos as a remembrance of a day when my baldness was celebrated. I will never forget this shoot or its importance to my recovery and confidence.”

I am so honored to introduce you to Megan.  She may be the most inspirational woman I have ever met.  Diagnosed with breast cancer at just 30 years old, she has stayed positive and vibrant through her fight and tries to help other women who are going through cancer even as she deals with the incredible struggle herself.

She had just started her fourth round of chemo when we did the Beauty Reboot shoot but you would never have guessed it.  I have never met a more positive, radiant woman who comes at this devastating challenge in her life with such grace and poise.  When my friend Percy recommended her for the Beauty Reboot project and told me about this incredible woman and her fight with cancer I knew right away we had found a gem of a woman and a perfect model for our shoot.  I want to tell you all about this wonderful woman, but I will let Megan speak for herself as her words will mean far more than mine ever could.

“My journey into breast cancer began with an off and on again pain in my chest.  I was 30, in the best shape of my life and had zero history of breast cancer in my family.  The first doctor didn’t feel anything and told me to come back if it persisted but the second doctor, who also felt nothing abnormal, ordered an ultrasound to be safe.  The ultrasound revealed abnormalities which lead to a mammogram and then a biopsy which gave me my diagnosis: invasive ductal carcinoma.  The tumor is considered triple positive, which means it’s positive for estrogen, progesterone (it grows in response to those hormones) and it’s also Her-2 positive (making it more aggressive).  We did genetic testing to see if I have the BRCA gene which is found to be hereditarily connected to breast cancer but my results were thankfully negative.   It was recommended that I do chemo therapy before surgery and radiation, but since there was a risk of losing my ovarian function permanently due to chemo, I did surgery to harvest and freeze my eggs.  There was some risk involved as I was pumped with estrogen, but the doctors gave me the go-ahead and I started chemo immediately after recovering from surgery.  Chemo went fairly well for me, especially when I hear the horror stories from other women.  Although the side effects were never ending and brutal and never came one at a time, I was able to do a lot more than I had ever imagined.  On my good days, I traveled to friends’ weddings and showers and saw family and had visitors and even played basketball on my rec league (even if for just minutes at a time).  On my bad days, I truly began to understand the term “just hang in there” because really there was nothing else I could do.  I finished 6 rounds of chemo (each round lasting 3 weeks) and will be on one of the chemo drugs, Herceptin (one with no side effects!) for the next year.  I opted for a bilateral mastectomy and had a 6 hour surgery with immediate reconstruction on the 4th of December.  I have expanders in place and once those are filled and the muscle is properly expanded I will start 6 weeks of radiation, going in for treatment five days a week.  Once radiation is complete I will have my final surgery which will swap out the expanders for implants.  I should be getting all of my tests back by next week which will confirm that cancer hasn’t spread anywhere else besides the lymph nodes.  We are very optimistic because there was only 5% of cancer found in a very small node.”  – Megan

“These photos don’t show a sick person or a patient and I think I needed that the most.”

I asked Megan to share her experience with Beauty Reboot, here is what she said:

“I was super excited to be invited to be a part of the Beauty Reboot project!  When I lost my hair due to chemo I grieved for my hair in the same way I grieved the news I had breast cancer.  It is truly a grieving process and I’m still going through it.  Just before the diagnosis,  I felt amazing in my body and it was like all of a sudden this healthy looking person on the outside was not matching what was going on inside.  Although I made my fight very public to friends and family online, it was the everyday going out and about in the middle of summer completely bald that brought on a lot of anxiety.  I was used to being able to hide my illness from strangers early on but my hair, which acted as a security blanket, was gone.  I didn’t feel like covering my head up with wigs so I just went bald and wore hats to protect myself from the sun for the most part.  Anytime I meet someone who has gone through or is going through what I’m going through, there is a instant sisterhood between us.  We just get each other.   I felt that sisterhood when I met Sharon for the first time and was excited to get to work with her.  I didn’t know much about her personal story at the time but I loved that she was rocking a bald head even though she was years out of treatment.  The public is not used to seeing women without hair and I commend her for actively choosing to remain bald.  We need to see more women this way!  It’s hard not to stick out when you’re bald and during chemo I did NOT want to stick out.  I wanted everything to be normal and my head was a constant reminder of my illness and an instant elephant in the room.  So being a part of the Beauty Reboot project and really celebrating that time and how I looked bald was very VERY important to me and my recovery.  Before the shoot all of my focus was on what I was losing.  And I lost a lot…way more than I thought or could have ever expected.  But being able to see myself in a light I hadn’t seen before gave me more confidence.  I needed to gain that back.  I needed to feel beautiful again.  Looking at the pictures for the first time was an opportunity to look at myself outside of my own mirror and to focus not on what I looked liked but rather on what the photos showed: a confident young woman in the midst of one of the biggest battles of her life.  And for someone going through chemo, I thought I looked pretty healthy!  There is a lot that the photos don’t show: that the day before was my 31st birthday and that I barely got out of bed to celebrate it.  That we had to work around the constant tearing of my left eye which would continue to “cry” consistently for 3 months (one of my least favorite side effects from chemo).  The photos also didn’t show a sick person or a patient and I think I needed that the most.  I’m so thankful to have these photos as a remembrance of a day when my baldness was celebrated. I will never forget this shoot or its importance to my recovery and confidence.”

Megan has a blog sharing her cancer journey and the “lighter side of cancer” which she hopes to one day turn into a book or one woman show to help motivate or guide other women through the process, you can check it out here : http://meagainoneil.tumblr.com/

Hair and Makeup by: Page Berse and Adrianna Espositto

Stylist: Elisa Blynn

BEAUTY REBOOT:

MEGAN'S STORY

Megan is a beautiful women who has breast cancer and has been chosen to celebrate her strength with a photo shoot in a Warrior Women series by Lucia Kiel Portraits