We first interviewed Lara two years ago but even with the time that’s passed since, her story continues to inspire until today – as has been proven with the tremendous response her post has garnered in the past week when we re-shared the original post. And it comes at a perfectly-fitting time with breast cancer month in full swing and the need for the right awareness ever-present. Nothing gets the message across better than hearing it from someone who has not only fought but beat cancer because of early detection.
For those of you who have been closely following Lara’s story and are wondering how she’s doing today, we did the following interview to share with you the latest chapter in her ever-inspiring story. Life may be going one way once you’ve just completed treatment, but how much (or little) do things change when one year, two years, or more have passed?
To get more insight on this subject, we posed a few questions to this very inspirational survivor and here’s what she had to say:
1. In our first interview, you introduced yourself as Lara, the “twenty-seven-year-old breast cancer survivor”. How has this introduction evolved since and how do you introduce yourself today?
I was chatting with a friend of mine last week about someone who recently got diagnosed with breast cancer – and for a moment I had completely forgotten that I had undergone the same thing!
I think our mind is programmed in a way to keep us going without looking behind – except when we purposely choose to.
2. Has the experience left any physical scars?
I have a couple but they are barely noticeable thanks to my genius doctor, whom I love!
Other than that, does a tattoo count?
I was once labeled as a girl who had cancer. Now, I am labeled as a survivor – literally.
3. More than 5K views and 1.6K likes later: your post on our website has undoubtedly reached a wide audience and touched many. How did people, in general, react to your story (especially those who didn’t know it before) and are there any notable responses that were shared as a result of the post?
I’ve received lots of messages from friends and random people admiring my courage and stating I was an inspiration; all of which delighted me. However, my aim is to raise awareness and encourage women to get examined. I guess I’ll never know for sure whether they’re doing it or not, but I’d like to think they are.
4. How would you describe life post-cancer? Any self-discoveries along the way since our last chat?
In the previous interview two years ago, I had mentioned how I am still very much the same person: still the same friends and still enjoying the same things in life. This still stands. And all those stories you hear or read about how someone had completely metamorphosed are either fictional or perhaps I am just odd. I hope it isn’t the latter!
I must say, though, that today my appetite towards discovering new things has definitely multiplied; simple pleasures can make me euphoric.
Oh – and one thing that has constantly been changing in the past three years is my hairstyle.
5. Speaking of which: has your hair grown back to the way it used to be before chemotherapy? What’s happened to your wig since?
When I had very long hair, I used to threaten hairdressers not to cut more than a centimeter or so. Now I can’t stay away from my adored hairdresser for more than a month.
Only recently have I been growing it back a little but every time I come across a woman with short hair, my heart goes “boom!”: it’s bold, it’s got attitude – it’s different.
Concerning my wig, it’s in the same place it has been since my bald days: deep down in the closet – speaking of which, I’d like to donate it to a cancer patient who will actually wear it!
6. We can’t help but smile each time we look at your “Finish Line” photograph in our previous interview. Do you do anything special to celebrate each year since completing your treatment?
The ultimate celebration will happen once they find a cure. There are so many women out there fighting breast cancer, so we haven’t won the war yet. However, we’re winning many battles thanks to early detection.
I’d like to quote my dear brother here:
“Every milestone is a celebration. Every survivor is a celebration of life. It springs hope in people and inspires them to remain positive and be mentally ready to challenge and beat cancer. We always have to celebrate our small wins in everything we do. This leads the path to bigger celebration – which in this case is cure.”
7. One of the biggest fears women who’ve undergone cancer treatment share is a fear of recurrence. Does that fear diminish as the years pass and what are your particular thoughts on this?
I don’t really think about it unless I’m prompted. There’s no point in living in anxiety and fear of something that’s uncertain: it just drains all your energy and for nothing! This applies to everything in life, not just health.
Hopefully it will never come back, but if it does, I now know the drill and I will do my utmost best to kick its ass the same way I did before.. if not stronger!
8. What does the month of October mean to you as a survivor?
I love it when in October I see random people wearing the pink ribbon, shops changing their window display to pink or nail bars promoting their pink range. It’s just so cool!
But at the same time, I hope awareness is being raised through all of this and that it’s not just for show. I also hope that awareness is not just brought up during this particular month but rather continued all year long.
9. Is there any advice you’d like to share with other women reading this?
For starters, stop postponing your routine medical check-ups.
Yes, we all dislike wasting those two hours at the doctor’s waiting area but what are two hours compared to hundreds of hours spent in chemotherapy sessions, radiation therapy, surgery, bed rest.. You get the picture.
Even more so: those two hours could extend someone’s lifetime so please go waste them – and with a smile.
And take your mama with ya!
10. We would like to end our interview with a similar question to that with which we closed our first interview: What kind of breast cancer work and/or awareness would you like to see more of in the region?
Currently, most awareness campaigns are targeted towards women above a certain age. They are often lunches for socialites where large donations are expected, where awareness is disseminated in an old-fashioned way, etc. So what I’d love to witness is more striking campaigns and events targeting the younger generation who seem to believe they are not at risk.
Ideally, awareness campaigns that are able to convert into results whereby each and every woman gets a check-up and help us really fight the war against breast cancer.
So whomever wants to join forces, please raise your hand!
* All photographs in this interview are provided courtesy of Lara.