I used to be one of those women who fell into the trap of needing to look a certain way in order to be seen as beautiful.
I spent my twenties endlessly dieting in order to maintain my figure and fit into the skimpiest outfits, which I thought were attractive at the time. My bathroom was filled with hair products promising to turn my curly, frizzy hair into gorgeous silky Victoria's Secret locks, and I was the proud owner of a makeup collection that kept Napoleon Perdis in business.
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My ventures outside consisted of an hour-long ritual of washing and straightening my hair, cleansing and toning, applying primer and foundation, powder, contouring, highlighting and bronzing followed by eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss - and that was just to take the rubbish out.
My Facebook was filled with endless photos of me looking immaculate, and just like anyone else's, my ego got a big boost the more likes and comments I got on them.
My husband always told me he preferred me without makeup, wearing a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers and my hair swept back into a ponytail. 'The casual look', he called it, a term which really didn’t exist in my vocabulary.
Until I was diagnosed with cancer.
As every new mum can attest, pregnancy does strange things to your body. My 12C perky melons gave way to saggy shrivelled-up grapes, and a push-up bra became my best friend.
It was my obsession with my body and having firm breasts that led me to stand in front of the mirror one day after a shower and lift my breasts to where they used to be, only to feel a lump.
This is new, I thought to myself. It had been a while since I'd stopped breastfeeding but having had a few lumps post-pregnancy I was sure it was another blocked milk duct.
I decided to see the doctor, who too felt it was nothing, but we got a second opinion to be sure.
At the age of 32, 10 months after the birth of my son, I was told I had Triple Negative Invasive Carcinoma in my right breast.
I recall sitting in a daze at the Icon Cancer Centre listening to the nurse talk about the possible side effects of chemo. Hair loss, nausea, mouth ulcers, weight gain, loss of appetite, skin conditions, fatigue, and worst of, all early menopause - and that was just to shrink the tumour before having a double mastectomy and then reconstruction.