Hi, I'm Rachel Park, and I'm happy you're here! I'm a breast cancer survivor/awareness advocate, tie designer, and founder of Rachel Park Designs & Survivor Moda.
In September of 2014 (shortly after my birthday), I felt a small lump in my breast. Convincing myself it was "just a cyst," after a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy, I was devastated when doctors confirmed my worst fears, and I was diagnosed with Stage IIB triple-negative breast cancer. Still in shock, I met with my new oncologist to figure out my game plan and looked ahead to a long year of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Next thing you know, I was on the Cancer Train, and once it starts, it starts FAST.
While in the fog of chemotherapy (and trying to keep whatever I could eat down), being stylish was the last thing on my mind. During my second round, I went to run my hand through my hair. Clumps came out, and I started crying. Yes, I knew this would happen. Yes, I knew it would grow back. Guess what? IT. STILL. SUCKS.
Trying to ignore my disappearing hair, I dared not comb it or mess with it too much, in fear of shaking it and having to watch more fall out. Every night, I had my boyfriend sweep the hair from the bathroom, so I would not see it in the morning. I thought maybe this would be a good opportunity to try that pixie cut I always wanted; my hairdresser whispered to me that she couldn't cut it that short -- she would have to leave my hair longer on top to cover the bald patches underneath.
Nursing a combover, I still couldn't bring myself to have that Shaving Party everyone recommends you have to "take control of it." I had bought a wig in preparation, but I just wasn't ready yet. Finally, after attending a breast cancer support group in a hat and meeting fellow breast cancer survivors, I finally felt ready to face the inevitable. That night, my boyfriend shaved my head (since he has low hair, he knows his way around clippers), and I closed my eyes and cried as my remaining hair fell around me. When he finished, he kissed my head and said, "Look! We match!" 💕
The next day, I felt...FREE. It was finally done! Now, I could stop dreading watching my hair fall out. With a background in fashion, I was determined to keep my fashion sense during treatment. Wanting to look more natural, I never wore my wig. Instead, I had fun experimenting with scarves during chemo and received lots of compliments. Cancer took many things from me, but I wouldn't let it take my style!
Although everyone kept telling me that I didn't "look sick" (I WAS), staying stylish was important to me, and the extra confidence boost helped me feel better through it all. I wanted to create a helpful resource for other breast cancer survivors to not forget their sense of style during treatment, and Survivor Moda (which is a play on "survivor mode," plus moda means "fashion" in Spanish) was born. Survivor Moda empowers breast cancer survivors to survive in style and provides breast cancer information and resources.
While still in radiation treatment, I used my skills to sew a seatbelt pillow to comfort my chest for the car rides to and from the hospital (and have used it daily ever since!). A fellow breast cancer survivor pal was due to have surgery, and I made one for her as a gift before she was admitted. She was so excited and said, "I didn't even know I needed this!" I assured her although she may not have known it, she would be glad to have it when she left the hospital. After seeing her response and incorporating feedback from other breast cancer survivors, I created The ParkPuff™, a portable, stylish, chest-comforting seatbelt pillow.
After a long year of treatment including 15 rounds of chemotherapy, two surgeries (with one to go!) and 32 radiation treatments, I'm thankful to officially be declared cancer-free! 😊
I hope you find some interesting and helpful information on this blog about being a breast cancer survivor and keeping your sense of style (and humor!) during treatment. Feel free to comment on my posts to join the conversation!
If you know of other breast cancer survivors who may benefit from this website, please share SurvivorModa.com with them to help me reach and inform as many survivors as possible. Thank you!