Archive | September 2012

Cancer What?

[If you’ve seen the EMMY award winning SCAR Project documentary Baring It All by EMMY award winning filmmaker Patricia Zagarella, then you’ve already met the fabulous Sylvia Soo. She’s one of the fab four SCAR girls featured in the film. If you haven’t seen it… well… let’s just end that madness with the word “YET” —Ahem, if you haven’t seen it YET then it’s not to late! Just head over to your local Amazon by clicking HERE, then add it to your cart, press Proceed to Checkout, and voilà! Baring it All follows David Jay on an excursion from his life as fashion photographer into a world of young women scarred by breast cancer. Sylvia’s story, her absolute reality of surviving cancer as a young, beautiful, not to mention, fabulous, single woman, is not one most people would even think of when they think of breast cancer. For instance, Sylvia looks straight into the camera and says quite candidly, “How are you supposed to bring that up? Somebody asks you out on a date. Oh, by the way, I don’t have any hair and I have one breast.” Unfortunately, these days more and more young women are facing what  they, we, even many doctor’s, all “thought” was “our grandmother’s disease”.  That’s why The SCAR Project exists, that’s why David Jay takes their SCAR portraits, and that’s why these young women bare their scars. Sylvia and her sister SCAR girls face the camera the same way they faced breast cancer: with beauty, courage, style, grace, and fabulousness. Yes, it’s shocking to see breast cancer exposed like this, but… deeper than the shock… it’s inspiring to see what lies beneath the pink ribbons: S.C.A.R.s—not scarlet letters but badges of honor—these young women wear proudly and bravely bare in their SCAR Project Portraits. If that’s not cancer fabulous I don’t know what is. With that, I’d like to hand the microphone over to my fab friend Sylvia. Besides being fabulous herself, she manages the Cancer Fabulous web site where she encourages others to be cancer fabulous themselves, she’s working on a book called Cancer Fabulous Diaries, AND she has a short film called Dear Sister which is up for a prize for Rethink Breast Cancer’s Breast Fest coming up this November. All in a fab days work, yeah?! Anyway, please check out Dear Sister and vote for her fab flick HERE for the win! Voting ends September 14. So there’s still a few days left to stuff the ballot box for our Cancer Fabulous SCAR Sister Sylvia!]

Guest Post by the cancer FAB Sylvia Soo

I’d invited spoken word artist, Titilope Sonuga to perform at a charity event that I organized in 2010. She didn’t know me at that time, but by reading through my website’s (www.cancerfabulous.com) online diaries she was able to capture the essence of my motto “cancer fabulous.”

Cancer Fabulous

(written for Sylvia Soo)
By Titilope Sonuga

Be cancer fabulous
Be bruised battered
but never broken
down
fabulous
just be

carve a space
in this world
big enough
to love yourself in
even as they carve
through your chest
pump through your veins
wrap you in gauze
wrap yourself
in this
cloak yourself
in this
hold it up
like a shield
against your heart

impossible means
nothing to you

when the odds were
one in ten
one in a hundred
one in a thousand
you were that
one

that one who
clung to life
when it was easier
not to
dragged yourself
off bathroom floors
wiped the tears from
your eyes
last nights food
from your mouth
and did the impossible
refused to lay down
and give up
surrender or retreat

this is what beautiful
looks like

it is raw and uncovered
it is bald and stunning
it is twisted and tangled
It is a crocked line of scars
criss crossing
towards a heart
big enough to
love a nation

this is what beautiful
looks like

it is what exists
when we are broken
down past ego
or understanding
when we are faced
with a body that sends
distress signals
in the form of
a painless lump
when we are forced then
to cling to a soul
that refuses to
give up

this is what beautiful
looks like

So you bare your scars
for us to look upon
so that we can trace them
like maps
towards our own understanding

remind us that
there are no
treatments
for your smile

there is no
prescription
for laughter

there is no cure
for love

you remind us
what beautiful
really looks like

What beautiful really looks like

After reading the poem, one blogger wrote: “I honestly see nothing beautiful about cancer nor having to deal with it.” That blogger didn’t get it.

Yes, there is nothing fabulous about cancer. There is nothing fabulous about having your body scarred, having to take chemotherapy or puking in toilets. There is nothing fabulous about watching a loved one die. However, there is something amazingly beautiful and amazingly fabulous when someone goes through such hardship and turmoil with grace and strength. This is what cancer fabulous is about.

Perhaps it is media that has us thinking that cancer patients are weak, frail baldheaded aliens who are just waiting to die. These past three years I have met many inspiring people with such incredible spirit. These women are not ready to throw in the towel, but they fight for their lives. They have something to say. They are not willing to remain silent. Many of these women are subjects of the SCAR Project.

“There is something amazingly beautiful and amazingly fabulous when someone goes through such hardship and turmoil with grace and strength. This is what cancer fabulous is about.” – The fabulous Sylvia Soo

I chanced upon The SCAR Project during a 2009 Google search. I was 25 years old, and had just returned to Canada upon completion of an overseas contract. One week after I returned home, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My surgeon gave me an option to choose a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Nights before my scheduled surgery I found the startling SCAR images, and I decided to have the mastectomy.

With one breast, I forged ahead with my summer. I stepped out into the chemo ward with my stilettos and I held my baldhead high. Time continued and the drugs began to take their toll on my body. I stubbornly mascara-ed the very few eyelashes that were left, and painfully slipped into my dignity. Those were challenging times.

While I was on-set of an independent movie, David Jay and I finalized my plans to fly to New York City and participate in The SCAR Project. Upon leaving set, I flew out to NYC. The photo that was chosen was a candid one (at the top of the page). I remember we were laughing at what someone said. I’m overjoyed that my picture does not depict sadness. My journey was much more than sadness.

These days you’ll find me working on my book, Cancer Fabulous Diaries, a collaboration with Rethink Breast Cancer; planning to become an entrepreneur in 2013, and always planning my next travel destination. Looking back on my life, I am amazed at all that I have been through, and excited for all that is to come.

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