The Gift – Rosario B.

Rosario Mermaid

“I am a lucky girl.
‘Don’t worry it is probably a false positive, most are!’ – My doctor’s words.
I am glad I did!
I am a lucky girl!
I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma stage II shortly after.
After a double mastectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy, here I am!
I lost my hair, my eyelashes, and my eyebrows but, yet blossomed inside.
My energy was gone, however never my inner strength.
I grew strong.
Friends and family stood in disbelief as they watched me go through this journey.
I am a lucky girl!
I am lucky to have such a great husband, parents, siblings & friends.
I learned that we, as human beings, are able to withstand the unimaginable.
For me there was no other choice.
Yes, I have lost my breasts but have gained so much more.
Today I am blessed to watch my son grow into this incredible human being.
I am a lucky girl!
Today I live in the moment because I do not know what lies ahead.
Today I appreciate my loved ones so much more for they are my source of strength.
Today I count my blessings.
Today as always I realize…
I am a lucky girl.”

Rosario2

The Gift – Robin L.

Robin jumping

“The Gift of Cancer.

I know by now most of you are wondering if this title is a mistake. I am here to share with you how having cancer has improved my life. So a little about me first. I am 61 years old,married with 2 adult children Kira and Seth. Two different fathers but that’s a whole different story. Lived in Ventura California for the past 24 years. I am the kind of person who likes to be involved in my community. I am what some people call a take charge kind of person who helps others. Trained as a social worker I have helped others all my life.

So let’s skip to about 2 and a half years ago.  Funny this reminds me of when I was young and used the half way marker to show people I was older. Of course now I just use the correct year. Ha Ha. In this case since my mastectomy the more years away from that dx the better in terms of it coming back. I know I said it was a gift but getting it once is enough of a gift.  Although if it does come back I am sure I will learn more.

Though my treatment I the independent take charge person who helped others was learning how to accept help from others. A foreign concept to me.  In addition I learned that life does have an end. I often had trouble being in touch with my feelings. With cancer, I was able to take opportunities that helped me become more in touch with my feelings I became more spiritual and less anxious. Instead of always thinking about the future, being in the moment was important. I was able to appreciate small things like a sunset. Sounds silly maybe to anyone who doesn’t have time to stop their busy lives and appreciate such things.  It also has taken away my fear about death and need to control things. Ability to control things go out the door once you are diagnosed. I feel I can live life to the fullest now. However one might define that. For me my relationships have improved and I have learned to take time for myself.

Being part of this book and letting you all look at my new body has helped me also to accept myself as I am. Not only because I have one breast but because of who I am as a total person.  Which includes the good the bad and the ugly.

Please learn from me that taking care of yourself and accepting yourself as you are is the greatest gift “

The Gift – Sharon C.

Sharon outside

“I have been given a new identity of sorts: I have a new birthday, with new birth-marks (scars), I have new sisters (Living Beauties) and a New Now. I have learned to appreciate Now, love me as I am, find joy in taking time for small things and appreciate my gift of joyful living and being grateful for each day.”

Sharon Hubby

The Gift – Jacque R.

Jacque smiling

“The Gift!

Breast cancer is one of the best things to happen in my life. I know that sounds either crazy or like a cliché. From the time I was diagnosed, had a mastectomy, completed chemotherapy, and had five surgeries, I was surrounded by a community of friends (old and new) who helped me and my two sons. As a single mom who lost income-earning abilities, we would have been homeless and hungry without these amazing angels. The best gift of all is my ignited focus and commitment to serve others as an advocate, mentor, and resource as they trudge through their journey with breast cancer. If I had not had breast cancer, I would have missed out on many of the beautiful friendships I now have. While I would not have chosen breast cancer, I would not change it!”

Jacque Son

The Gift – Susan G.

Susan puppy

“…in the end, I think that the greatest gift of my cancer experience was meeting myself in the midst of it all and standing right there.”

The Gift – Kim F.

Kim_Famous

“The ‘Gift’ photo shoot enabled me to feel beautiful again in that my body is still ‘picture worthy’!! My scars have a story of their own to tell.  The project allows others to see the beauty of my entirety, beyond the scars.  The scars enhance a different type of beauty that is not physical.  I feel “ I am aesthetically pleasing even though my reconstruction is ‘unfinished’.”  I want others to witness that pride and feel that they too should embrace the body they now have.

By attending the Living Beauty Yoga Retreat last year, I found hidden strength within myself. Each woman’s story is unique yet we share the common thread of endurance.  A safe space was created for us to be ourselves as sisters to share the unspoken grief, triumphant spirit and layers of emotions.

Cancer helped me discover that I now have a voice that speaks with conviction to tell newer survivors and their family members that they too will find support, strength and a deeper faith in places totally unexpected and from people whom they would not have otherwise except through this process.  I have gained the irreplaceable companionship of confidants.  There is an undeniable instant bond with fellow strivers and even more so at group activities that focus on topics other than the disease.  On these occasions, we are able to bear witness to how others have and grow deeper in the belief that I too can overcome!

Now that I have made it to the five year mark of survivorship, I am an example to others…I can give guidance and speak from experience as ‘living proof’ that life does go on.”

The Gift – Dikla B.

“Cancer is not a gift nor a blessing.  It is an enormous life changing, life threatening and life long challenge.  The gift is how we choose to experience and perceive this challenging journey.  We can live with it in fear, dread, anger, pain, loss, resentment and see it as the end…of something “I can’t……because of cancer.

OR we can view our cancer experience as a catalyst to a direction and perspective on life that is grander than our challenges from cancer.  The gift is taking the opportunity to be vulnerable, fully ourselves, expressing openly our full range of emotions, needs and wants and reaching out openly to support networks.  The gift is consciously and actively seeking and creating moments of sharing and connecting with others, fulfillment, love, flow and contentment for ourselves and for the people we care about in our lives.  The gift is expressing “How can I make……………………..happen?”.

For many of us, it’s a daily struggle to find that gift, but when it is rediscovered again and again, the bliss and excitement is always fresh.”

The Gift – Caroline M.

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“A gift might not seem like one at first. Especially in the wake of an epic cancer battle. Each battle different. For me it meant some major medical injustices at the hand of one of my surgeons. Tough as nails after this and newly so much more sensitive minded post chemo, I emerged an empath.

For my fellow humans an intense need to protect and care for them. To feel deeply, painfully for them. I also felt, feel so much more empathy for animals too.

My brain has been functioning a bit more disorganized now. I know that chemo has changed me in a way that I will never return to. I live each day reminding myself that this is okay. I am a warrior, goddess, pixie.”

The Gift: Ida Rosenberg

A beloved Living Beauty, Ida Rosenberg describes her cancer journey as one of empowering discovery, both of others and of herself. “The biggest gift I got [during this journey] was becoming friends with women I would have never previously had the opportunity to know. They have so enriched my life and you really can’t put a single value on that.” In fact, The Foundation for Living Beauty’s community of women and focus on positivity led Ida to recognize her own strengths as a rock and optimist. “The fact that I found out I had the ability to touch people and make a change in their lives through a positive outlook was empowering. I considered myself a survivor from the second I was diagnosed. I believe my positive outlook healed me faster and healed my family as well.”

Through her emotional healing process, Ida also came to peace with new elements of her body, including those carved by cancer. “Every warrior has scars, emotionally or physically. Mine are on my body. It’s a sign of strength: To show my scars only shows my journey and the fight that I fought.”

The Gift offered Ida an opportunity to not only showcase her scars, but also celebrate her womanhood. While Ida approached her photo session for The Gift with peace, she felt even more comforted and encouraged by our photographer, Cynthia Perez. “Cynthia was great,” Ida explained. “When she first started taking pictures, the fabric I had brought with me was more in front of me and I was a silhouette. By the time we were done, the fabric was behind me and I was in front of it. I think that speaks volumes. For me to feel comfortable and bare all, that shows how she put me at ease and made me feel better and better about what I was doing as we went along. Then I felt totally free.

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The Gift: Dikla Benzeevi

As a true leader and spiritual inspiration to other women with metastatic breast cancer, Dikla Benzeevi believes that despite the physical and mental challenges associated with her journey, the people she has met and challenges she has overcome have provided her with the gifts of sisterhood and self-assurance. “I think it has allowed me to be more open to people, both other women with cancer and just people in general. It has helped me create bonds of sisterhood and open up more, to flourish. I’ve met amazing people from all walks of life and fields of work, from different countries and cities that I would never have met prior to cancer.”

Dikla discovered The Foundation for Living Beauty in 2013 through two friends who told her about it and raved about their experiences. Her first Summer Sisterhood celebration in 2013 was a pool party and nutrition lecture. “Everyone was themselves and so accepting,” says Dikla. “You could be yourself and not worry about how you were perceived. As I got to know the Foundation for Living Beauty better, I attended retreats and even a Beyonce concert. Even the names of the events are warm and comforting. They symbolize how one feels with the women there. It’s a safe haven to feel good in your own body, space and environment.”

For Dikla, The Gift project was an opportunity to overcome insecurities and be in a vulnerable but safe place at the same time. “It is a scary thing to reveal yourself in all your natural glory to the public. But by doing so, I overcame fear and insecurity. The photographer, Cynthia, was so wonderful and created a very comfortable environment in which we took the photos. I just felt at peace. It’s not something I would normally do, but it was nice to try something different.”

In true Living Beauty fashion, Dikla blew us away with her interpretation of the term scar. By displaying her own scars in our photography project, Dikla says, “I hope we provide an empowering framework by which women will find courage, freedom and acceptance of themselves as they are and without judgement and fear. We want to share messages of hope by bearing our souls and selves. Not to mention, SCAR could be an acronym for ‘Shooting Courage And Resilience’.”

If anyone radiates both courage and resilience, it’s certainly Dikla. Purchase tickets to The Gift now to see the intimate photos Cynthia Perez has captured of our Living Beauties embracing their scars and enjoying their newfound gifts.

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