I have been a jewelry designer and world traveler for most of my adult life. I’m accustomed to working hard and relying on myself: I’ve worked on a fishing boat, tended bar, lived in Bali and San Francisco, and taught myself to snowboard and ski. But in 2007, I found myself really struggling. I was seriously exhausted, spending more and more time in bed. I thought it was burnout. It never crossed my mind I had cancer. I’ve always been such a healthy, active person.
Rest didn’t help, and my doctor advised some tests, including a surgical biopsy on some old scar tissue near my bikini line. Turns out I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was in total shock. The specialist who examined me said that that the cancer was most likely stage 4 and incurable. Basically, I thought I was going to die.
Still, I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing. I sought out many doctors, including a naturopath and a doctor of Chinese medicine. I looked into treatment in the U.S. I hit the internet, finding mostly doom and gloom. I ate raw food and did yoga. And I took a course of radiation at the BC Cancer Agency.
I’m incredibly lucky; my cancer turned out to be far less life-threatening than my doctors originally thought. But the radiation treatment wiped me out. I wanted to know about alternative and complementary care. All the people I had found on my own seemed sort of wacky. I wanted care from real doctors who made sense.
That’s when someone referred me to InspireHealth, an integrated cancer care centre in Vancouver. There, I got practical information about nutrition, supplements, exercise, everything. Following the guidance I received there, I finally started to feel better.
The thing that impressed me most as I made my way through treatment was the generosity and strength of the people who cared for me. Without them, and without the research that had made my disease treatable in the first place, I wouldn’t be here. As I recovered, I knew I needed to show my support and appreciation.
My first act was to participate in a fund-raising triathlon in Hawaii. Through sponsorships, I raised almost 20k! It felt great to do something so positive, but the "rah rah" mood and corporate vibe surrounding the event turned me off. Could there be a way to raise funds and awareness that was a bit more individualistic, more "me"?
Visiting my friend Ameen one day, I noticed a beautiful metal cuff covered in Arabic script sitting on a shelf. He told me that it was a special bracelet from a mosque in India, and that the writing, from the Koran, was meant to protect the wearer. I loved this idea and decided I would make my own charmed bracelet. After all, I'm a jewelry designer; what better way to express what I’d been through?
Believe it or not, "Fuck Cancer" was the first protective phrase that came to mind. On the internet, I'd found cancer survivors using it as their own good-luck phrase, on hats to wear to chemo, coffee mugs, even needlepoint The strong language worked for me. Not because it was shocking or obscene, but because it was honest, sassy – and funny! "Fuck Cancer" said that cancer hadn't killed the rebellious, daring part of me.
Once I had made the bracelet and showed it around, all my friends wanted one, including one of my doctor pals! Everyone loved the subtlety and elegance of the design combined with the raw emotion of the statement. People who’d lived with cancer "got it" immediately. It was what we all felt, but what no one wanted to say.
The more I wore the bracelet, the more I felt "Fuck Cancer" was something that needed to be said. I also liked the idea of being part of something that I saw happening on the internet: not quite a community, but a shared attitude.
I knew a designer F Cancer bracelet would be a terrific fundraising item and conversation starter. What a great alternative to those horrible plastic wristbands proliferating everywhere! I wanted to create something that felt more substantial; something strong and beautiful, to make myself and anyone who wears it feel that way. I hope you like it.