No one wants to hear the words, “You have cancer.”
As a 26 year old, I was living my “Sex and the City” life in Manhattan: dating, working in advertising, shopping with my girlfriends, and even buying some expensive shoes (that I could barely afford!).
Pretty normal for a woman that age.
What doesn’t sound normal is a stage 3 breast cancer at 26 years old. It was just one week after my first date with my now husband – Nate Dolce. That too just shouldn’t seem normal.
At first, I felt it wasn’t fair. It felt as though I had been targeted. An unlucky arrow had struck me, and I would have to battle through the next year in chemotherapy, radiation, breast surgeries, hormone treatments and more. I would have to live the rest of my life knowing there was a chance cancer could come back.
To be honest, the year-and-a-half of treatment went pretty quick. I was busy running to appointments and scans, but more importantly, I was quickly falling in love. Such a juxtaposition – the worst time of your life, also being the best. I had butterflies every time I saw my boyfriend and always wanted to look and feel my best. But how could I do that with new scars across my breasts? No eyelashes? No HAIR!?
I had a little pair of mini pink boxing gloves that my best friend’s mom gave me, to remind me to never give up, and to always keep fighting. They were a symbol of hope and a reminder that I could handle this. I could be strong AND beautiful. I was Fighting Pretty!
After all my treatment, I went back to work and knew that I really wanted to help others. I didn’t know what to do, I just knew that women battling this disease called cancer were facing something harder than anyone knew. Not only were they scared, and scarred, but they had to fight to stay alive. These women battled through life quietly, with fear in their hearts but strength in their minds. These women needed to be recognized and honored for their strength and beauty.
In 2010, I learned that a family friend was newly diagnosed with breast cancer. She was having a really tough time and needed strength. I was standing in my bedroom at the time and knew that I wanted to help her, so I sent her my mini pink boxing gloves with some makeup and accessories. This was the first care package I ever sent – a package of strength, hope and love.
A few years later, I realized I didn’t need to only help those that I knew; I could help anyone. So I started an organization called Fighting Pretty with a mission to help all women battling cancer feel strong and beautiful. I started sending care packages, labeled “Pretty Packages,” to women battling all types of cancer, of all ages, all over the world. In only one year, I sent 500, then 1,000, and now we have reached over 2,500 women in 49 states and 8 countries worldwide. We are all Fighting Pretty.
All in all, I look back on my life, especially these last seven years, and know that I was actually struck with a lucky arrow. I fought hard and conquered breast cancer. I am now 34 years old and can happily say I am cancer free! There are still some trials and tribulations that we are faced with as the years go by. I am still on Tamoxifen, a drug to keep my hormones at bay so the cancer has nothing to grab on to. Nate and I are trying to start a family but found out that we have only one viable embryo. And every time I feel a zinger in a nerve, or get a headache, the scary thought comes to mind,”OMG it’s BACK!”
But I know that if I had never been diagnosed with breast cancer at just 26 years old, I would not be the amazing, strong woman that I am today. I may not have loved with my whole heart, and I certainly would not have started a non-profit organization to help provide hope to women battling cancer through Fighting Pretty. I am so incredibly thankful that I learned such an incredible life lesson at such a young age. Life doesn’t last forever, but for the time you are here, look at life with rose-colored glasses and see the beautiful things in life every day. Listen to the birds sing, smell the flowers on your daily walk, and bask in the raindrops.
Life is beautiful. And so are you. Don’t forget it.
Because just when you think you’ve been struck with an unlucky arrow, you might find out that God is just trying to help you turn this time on Earth into the most amazing life ever.
by Kara Dolce
Founder & CEO
Fighting Pretty, Inc.
Helping women battling cancer feel strong and beautiful.