I was in high school when my Aunt Patti was diagnosed with breast cancer. This woman is like a second mother to me and has always been my advocate. She got me behind the wheel of a car even though I was deathly afraid, and told me to avoid ‘California stops’ before my driver’s test. She let me stay up late, watch cartoons at all hours of the day, and took me bowling every Friday. She made sure I didn’t put up with negativity from anyone, and to treat others the way I would like to be treated.
When we first heard the news, we took her to the ASPCA and got her a white, clumsy, big-bellied puppy named George. He comforted her through every struggle and pushed her to be active even when she was tired. During chemotherapy, she started losing hair. She was more scared of the hair loss—scared that it would never grow back again, and scared she would never feel normal again. My dad (her brother-in-law) brought in his razor one day and decided to shave his head for my aunt. When I learned how to crochet after her instruction, I did my best to make her a hat to keep her head warm.
Every year when October draws near, she doesn’t participate in the usual Breast Cancer Awareness activities—not because she doesn’t care, but because it makes her dwell on the heartache she suffered through. It was hard for my aunt losing one breast at a time, looking exhausted on a daily basis, and not having any hair. It’s hard feeling like less of a woman when you already feel physically weak.
That’s why makeup and hair have a deeper meaning for her. Even fatigued from chemo, a full face of makeup was a necessity to Aunt Patti. She told me, no matter what state she was in, taking the time to put on her makeup would make her feel so much better. Getting a wig was also a very important part of her healing process. One day, she went with a friend to a local shop to try some on for fun. The store had a private room special for cancer patients where they could try on wigs in a comfortable, safe environment. They were attentive, helpful, and even had a sales associate onboard to touch up makeup for the wigs. On our next grocery trip, a group of firemen were checking out my aunt—wavy brunette wig and all. To this day she always says, “Do you remember those guys looking at me? I didn’t even have real hair or boobs!”
Breast cancer is a disease that not only attacks the body, it attacks the feminine spirit. Thanks to pioneers like Evelyn Lauder, BCA is now a global revolution. Pink-ribboned products and monetary donations support and raise awareness, but remember that the cause is so much more than that. Tiny, humane deeds—like helping someone choose a wig, telling them they look beautiful, or simply showing support—are much more impactful. Breast cancer-free today, my aunt still has her tough days. But with patience, a positive attitude, and a bright smile, she still asks me about our next makeup playdate.