Rebecca Russell
in your skin

Rebecca Russell

This Londoner living in Los Angeles was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 31. While still facing challenges with her health, she's found so much support in sharing these experiences with her community and asking for help when she needs it most

Tell us about a challenge you faced that altered your self-perception?

When I was diagnosed in March 2019, with breast cancer at age 31. I lost a huge part of my identity after diagnosis and treatment, which I became so trepidatious about. I made sure to not let the words “you have cancer” define me indefinitely, but for a time it does, and there is no getting away from that. It took me a long time to condition myself to this new me, and that tore away at my soul. I lost the essence of my being that I had worked hard to gather during my adulthood and decided to stop working in a job I loved.  

Do you believe that having breast cancer allowed a shift in your thinking? Is there a specific instance that comes to mind?

On the day of diagnosis when we realized I wasn’t completely kooky, I am my own advocate and I felt grateful for my intuition. I was at the helm of my future and so I turned a devastating blow into a constructive moment. I felt like this could be a turning point in my life, not because I would become vegan and run marathons every month. But because my perspective would shift about what is important and what isn’t. Fashion has always played a huge part in being a morale boost in my life. I especially felt like this during diagnosis and treatment. This might seem shallow to some, but the joy that clothing, jewelry, and accessories can bring - particularly when somebody is dealing with a transformative life event can play a perfectly distracting and powerful role in recovery.

"Don't be afraid to talk about your story and reach out for help. I now have a lot of respect and gratitude for those who reach out to me for advice"

How has your battle with breast cancer strengthened the person you are today, and how do you go about continuing to strengthen your identity as a survivor?

I view these traits as just part of who I am now, and I own these features that are shaping the person I am today. Unfortunately, I am still in treatment and will be for at least another 3 years, so the reminder of everything lingers of course, but it evolves and every day I feel more resilient and further detached from my diagnosis.

The treatment I am now on is called Tamoxifen, which is a hormone therapy in tablet form that will reduce the risk of cancer returning. Tamoxifen can cause menopause-like symptoms, which are by no means fun, especially at 34. The most unwelcome side-effect that it brings is my inability to conceive, which is tough for my husband and me. But we are pursuing surrogacy - which is terrifying but of course the most exciting experience yet.

What makes you feel most empowered about being a woman?

When I find a woman I can easily relate to, I feel empowered, and am able to share my experiences within a female community. There’s so much beauty in the darkness, the beauty for me became the profound bonds that were created with women around me. Women who I will stay connected with forever because they understand the same language I do, though I am still digging deep to learn what some of that language is. That others are suffering from a similar situation, has made me feel reassured and deeply disheartened in equal measure. 

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