Dawn walking in the “Dress4Yellow” fashion show, which celebrates cancer survivors.
Bad hair days. Ugh! We’ve all had them, right? You spend 45 minutes drying and curling your other-wise stick straight hair and single-handedly deplete a portion of the ozone layer with hairspray to keep your ‘do in place. Then, you walk outside only to be greeted by Mother Nature who whips up the wind and challenges the humidity to reach an all-time high, and you can almost hear her sarcastic laugh crackling in the wind as you feel your curls succumb to the elements.
Yep, it stinks.
But, everything is relative.
What if your bad hair day began when you took wig tape and stretched it across the perimeter of your bald head while you prayed the tape would be strong enough to withstand Mother Nature? Losing your curls to the humidity is one thing. Losing your wig to the wind is…well, a nightmare.
And, the bad hair day continues as you try to recreate the eye brows you once complained about having to wax so often. The cu-de-gyres, of course, is gluing false lashes to your eye lid without the guidance of a single eye lash. You get so frustrated, you consider giving up until the thought of continuing to look like an alien surpasses your urge to quit.
I wish I could tell you I’m describing a scene from a bad movie, but the truth is I was the star of this real-life nightmare. I was 46 years-old, married to my soul mate and husband of nearly 25 years. Together, we were raising our12-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son, and I was enjoying a successful career as a fashion stylist. Then, one day I woke up with a lump on my sternum. It, literally, grew overnight. I had been to several doctors prior to that day because I was having difficulty breathing and received a series of inconclusive diagnoses. But, this time, I knew something was wrong, really wrong.
Dawn & her family shortly after diagnoses.
The next day I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and had about a quart of fluid drained from my lungs – fluid that wasn’t draining through my lymphatic system because it was no longer capable of doing its job. Instead, the cancer-filled lymph nodes formed a 9-centimeter mass between my lungs, and the lump on my sternum was the outward manifestation of that mass. Within a week, I underwent a biopsy of the mass, a biopsy of my bone marrow, a PET scan, and had a port placed underneath my skin through which I began my chemotherapy treatment. I was given a 70% chance of making a full recovery.
Eventually, I had a 100 hours of chemotherapy treatment. It rid my body of cancer and, simultaneously, it rid me of my femininty and my dignity.
As a fashion stylist, I’ve often said, “The way you look on the outside is a reflection of who you are on the inside.” So, what does a 9-centimeter mass of cancer-filed lymph nodes positioned between your lungs look like? I don’t think anyone wants to know the answer to that question.
Yet, despite everything I’ve just written, the most ironic thing happened to me during the first few months of my treatment. Although I was on a sabbatical, I decided to attend a book-signing party given in honor of one of my clients. A woman, not just any woman, a 6-foot-tall, redheaded fashion icon, said to me, “You look radiant.”
With supportive husband, Jon.
I was speechless. I just stared at her until her very polite and intuitive husband broke the awkward silence between us and commented on..well, truth be told…I don’t know what he said, but his voice was exactly what I needed to hear in order to find my own voice.
Radiant. Now that was an interesting choice of words, I thought to myself. You see, she didn’t know about my diagnosis, she didn’t know I was wearing a wig, she didn’t know how it took every ounce of strength I could muster, mentally and physically, to be standing in front of her at that very moment.
Then, of course, I told her. Our conversation from that point forward is one I will always treasure for many, many reasons. But, perhaps, the most important reason is that I came to realize the deeper meaning behind the advice I had been dishing out all these years.
With beautiful daughter, Erica – rockin’ her wig.
Despite the fact that I was a cancer-filled mess, standing a death’s door, and fighting for my life, I was spiritually stronger than ever before. I felt the presence of God in a way that I’ve never really been able to capture in words. I felt like I had been chosen – like so many of the biblical figures I’d grown to admire – I’d been chosen to glorify God. He knew that I would credit Him for healing me; I would lead others to Him through my unshakable faith; and I would be a living example of His power and grace.
A toast to good life at the “Eternally Grateful” party Dawn & her family threw for everyone who helped them on this journey.
Dawn speaking at the 2013 St. Valentine’s Day Fashion Show & Luncheon – sharing her journey and encouraging others to give to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
So, I was radiant after all. Radiant from the glow of the Holy Spirit shining so brightly that even my wig, my penciled-in eyebrows and my false eye lashes couldn’t overshadow its glow, and shedding a new perspective on the adage, “The way you look on the outside is a reflection of who you are on the inside.”
Dawn with her family, including her mom, at the 2014 St. Valentine’s Day Fashion Show & Luncheon when she received the “Heart of Gold” award.
To further inspire, here’s a ‘must see’ video of Dawn and her remarkable family: