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I felt sick, ugly, and weak. So I did this - by Rebecca Walden

Rebecca C. Walden is a writer/speaker on breast cancer, faith, mental health, and parenting good humans

Rebecca C. Walden is a writer/speaker on breast cancer, faith, mental health, and parenting good humans

Challenging myself during cancer treatment

For fear of being judged, I didn’t talk much about this during active treatment.

“This” being thoughts about my appearance. “This” being what breast cancer surgeries and treatments had done to my self-image. “This” being the shock and reckoning I went through every time I looked in the mirror – seeing a hairless, swollen version of my former self, with sallow skin and stark eyes.

I felt sick, ugly and weak, and I was not ok with that.

I considered the things that I could and could not control.

Beyond my control?

Seeking control and acceptance

How fast my eyelashes and eyebrows would return (though Rodan & Fields and Brian Joseph products helped; more on this in another post);

When my body would stop feeling old and brittle and broken;

The rate at which random head hairs would grow in more evenly (no one talks about how unflattering and physically uncomfortable this part actually is);

The (in)ability for me to move and exercise the way I could before treatment, and the way I still wanted to, all while, deafeatingly, my pants grew too tight (not due to laziness, mind you, but thanks to months-long exercise restriction and then being too sick to prevent all the lean muscle I’d worked so hard to build from turning into flab).

With no hair to style, and my face looking, quite frankly, silly and naked and off-balance, I wanted so badly to find a way to feel feminine and lovely.

I craved the sense of joy and self-confidence and uniqueness that can come from the way we express ourselves through the outfits we wear.

But this was at the height of pandemic shutdown. Nobody was really going much of anywhere, and when they did leave the house, pocketed yoga pants and a mask were just about all that was required.

Rediscovering femininity and confidence

Myself included. I only ventured out for chemo treatments and doctor’s appointments, always donning a pair of leggings, sneakers, a cozy sweater, tee and cardi or sweatshirt, and earrings.


That was my eureka moment. Around this time, Beaded Earrings were having quite a moment (I think they still are, but even if not, who cares? I love mine and wear the dickens out of them).

I was (and still am) here for it.

I bought my first pair – a set of vibrantly colorful butterflies – to channel the emotions I wanted to bring into that first chemo infusion appointment. And ever since, I’ve been on the lookout for sets that make me feel the way that first pair did.

Breast cancer survivor with her beaded earring collection.

Beautifully Girly. Bright and Hopeful. Optimistic. Faith-Filled. Vulnerable. Resilient. Graceful. Classy. Bold. And just a little bit Sassy.

That first pair brought me so much joy; to this day, the Butterflies spark friendly conversation with strangers who compliment me every time I wear them. So I’ve grown the collection, and that has been its own little joyful hobby.

I’m always “on the hunt” for not just any pair, but for the next worthwhile addition. Any contenders must be lightweight, colorful, unique-ish, and well-made (don’t even bother with the ones on Amazon; trust me on this).

They have to have just the right amount of personality to fit my vibe. This is how I came to own a pair of Texas flag tall boot earrings, and a set of “Howdy Honey!” ones, which I wear as often as possible, because they are awesome.

A signature look: Beaded earrings and headbands

It has become something of a signature look, which I feel so silly even saying, but it’s true.

During treatment and in the months of nowhere hair or awkward hair regrowth since, Beaded Earrings of all things helped me express a little dose of individuality. They helped me remember I hadn’t lost my spark entirely.

These last two years, I’ve paired them with the Knotted Headband trend, which I am also here for and loving.

In a matter of five minutes, whether it’s a wash and dry or dry shampoo day, I can pull together a look that is practical (pesky layers stay out of my face), polished, professional and also unmistakably me.

Fun-loving, sometimes silly, occasionally salty, and always hopeful me.


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