In December 2019, B.Beautiful by Brittni Alexandra signed with RETHINK; an organization that educates, empowers, and advocates for breast cancer survivors and fighters worldwide through campaigns, events, collaborations, and more! For the month of October, B.Beautiful is going to be giving discounts in honour of RETHINK, as well as donating proceeds from particular beauty procedures to the organization. Brittni invited in survivor Jill, whom she met through RETHINKS program, to talk to us about her journey, what RETHINK did for her, and more ways we can help during #breastcancerawarenessmonth and after!
B.Beautiful studio is owned by Brittni Alexandra, a beauty specialist. Apart from the signature brow lamination service, the studio offers brow lift, brow tint and brow shaping and many other brow reshaping and enhancing services. RETHINK is a community of young women who share a history of breast cancer at any stage. The
support group, which also has a Facebook community, holds regular conversations, clear doubts, and inspires its members to continue living a healthy, good life.
The case of Jill D’Souza reveals how B. Beautiful brought moments of joy to her life, apart from reshaping her eyebrows. Jill was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42 and felt a sense of loss after the treatment. B. Beautiful replaced her eyebrows, and thus gave back a part of what she had lost.
I got diagnosed in 2017, I went immediately to get checked when I thought something was wrong and got a quick diagnosis in 3-4 days. I was very lucky my sister urged me to do the optional ultrasound. Once they had completed all the scans, that’s when my new oncology team was preparing me for treatment, figuring out the right course for me. This whole time is very overwhelming, when you have all of these appointments you can 15 minutes, which is really not a lot of time, it helps us get through our system, but can be overwhelming off the bat. I’m lucky that I always had someone with me at any appointment, whether it be my mom or my sisters, because we get so much information at once on top of your shock and other mental faculties during this, so having someone else there was a great second pair of ears for me.
For my treatment plan, I started off with chemo, I had 6 rounds of chemo followed by a year of perseptik (another drug), and now on a drug called tamoxifen for 5-10 years after. After chemo, I opted to have a vasectomy, initially they were considering a lobectomy or taking out the one breast.
After going through such an ordeal, it’s a lot on myself and on my family, so I felt most comfortable removing both breasts so it reduces the risk of me getting cancer again. I had a vasectomy in the summer of 2018, then I went and had around 25 rounds of radiation. Every stage is difficult; chemo – you know you’ll lose your hair and people say “don’t worry, its just hair, you can wear a wig.”, but nobody prepares you for the whole event of losing your hair, and the way it happens, clumps and handfuls suddenly coming out, it was a traumatic experience. It’s not just head hair, it’s hair everywhere – I lost eyebrows, lashes, these features that frame & protect your face, my eyes were constantly crying because there was no filter protecting them! When we go to the hairdresser and have our hair cut, a bad cut is quite impactful, and you feel like you have a bad cut 24/7, you look in the mirror and don’t even recognize yourself. I know that when I was completely bald, it was the heat of summer which made it difficult to wear a wig or scarf so after a little while I opted to go around bald. It was really shocking because even though I feel like “Yes I was bald and going through treatment” sometimes, we don;t look as if we’re going through treatment. Yes I had no hair, but people may have thought it was a fashion statement, they don’t always expect you’re going through something challenging – and people don;t mean anything bad by that, it’s coming from a good place but it can be hard to hear when you’re in the thick of things.
When I started radiation it took me to almost the end of the year. Everyone’s body is different, and my body took a beating with the radiation. For treatment you can opt for a port so you don;t need a needle for each chemo, and unfortunately I was the small percentage who got the difficulties – a blood clot on the lining of my heart. The cardiologist monitoring me reacted so quickly, and as a result of the clot and the cancer, they have the maneuver the radiation beams, which by the time I finished radiation I was like a crisp piece of bacon, it was so painful to wear anything, my body had a lot of scars from my neck, back, underarms, everywhere.
Fast forward: I’m done radiation, and finishing that drug perseptik because that’s for a year. I was so happy that even after everything that had happened I ended up celebrating by going away for christmas that year with my sister and her family to Antiga. Of course I had to be very careful, but after such a year it was awesome to have a little bit of normalcy and spend time with people that I love and get to be playful and not have to think much about anything.
In June 2019 they took out my port, I was okay to start reconstruction if I wanted to, so we went ahead and the plan was to have a d-up procedure; they take an area of your tummy with all of it;s supporting connections and such, and move it up to your breasts. Complicated, yet common surgery for people going through breast cancer. My surgery day was July 16th, my sister’s birthday, so I was thinking it had to be lucky. Unfortunately when they had done the reconstructive surgery, the left breast was feeling cold and I ended up having partial failure on my left side. I ended up staying in the hospital for about a month, and had 4 surgeries in 2 weeks. They had to remove the flap because it was dying, and so many things happened, my family is so strong to help me through it all. The original plan was to wait for the heal and move forward, but unfortunately I had some really bad infections, and decided to do immediate surgery to try to take a piece of my back and have that form for my breasts (surgery #3). After that something was still not looking right, so they had one more surgery but everything looked fine, so they kept me in the hospital for a while to see if things would be okay. It was tough, I had two surgeries and a blood transfusion while I was there, but in the end I was sent home, and had an at home nurse with me to tend to my wounds.
I have gained back some of my confidence, but underneath my clothes it’s still very tough. I will need more surgery which will probably be early next year, and I have to be very careful. My immune system is very low, I was in the hospital November last year with an unknown infection in my blood system. It is what it is, I just power on, and i’m also finally getting back at work! I was self isolating before COVID- practicing! Between my cancer journey and everything happening now with COVID, it’s hard to be so isolated for all your regular things. It shows you take things for granted; seeing friends, family, or even social interactions at work. I’m a pretty social person and that’s the piece I miss most right now. I think I thrive on social aspects, so if I didn’t have that it would be harder, I have a smaller bubble and taking serious precautions, but it;s really nice to be back at work and feeling like I am getting some Normalcy back.
Messages for people going through this:
One of the things my oncologist told me right away “Jill, you’re going to need help. you’re going to need to learn to ask for help.” I think that’s one thing I can really take away in general. I am not the type of person to ask for help, it’s okay to ask for help, it doesn;t mean you’re weak if you ask for help, and people want to help. I would let anyone know to not be shy, and ask for help. There are so many great places that support other areas when going through cancer; it could be emotional, the effect of your body, discussing treatments. I met a lot of great people and groups – Including RETHINK breast cancer where I met Brittni! So many good things happened, but if I didn’t ask for help I wouldn’t have met all these groups and great people.
How did you get into rethink?
With RETHINK, at some point one of the councillors for chemo gives you pamphlets with different resources. I was diagnosed at the age of 42, not young or old, but it;s very tough because a lot of groups for women in breast cancer are categorized as 40 and under, so some groups I couldn’t even participate in. Funding is tight so I get it, but RETHINK welcomed me with open arms, and they have been really great. Through re think I learned a lot about breast cancer, and met wonderful ladies also going through treatment, and we partnered with groups like Brittni for the microblade (proceeds go to rethink). They have given me and others a lot of opportunities.
What are we most looking forward to in progress?
I do know that a lot of different groups are doing things differently. For example; RETHINK would have their boobieball but this year they did a box which was fantastic! It had all these goodies in it, and is a great way to support RETHINK and women in breast cancer. Everyone is loving boxes right now, it’s a great idea and my sister and I love ours. Pink Pearl has also been great for me, they do have a 40 cap but i’m allowed to participate in local events; they normally have an annual black, white, and pink gala – and this year they did a virtual gala, with a duelling pianist! There’s a lot to participate in, and there’s accommodations; RETHINK had a run in September and instead of running with a group we track our solo run. Nobody is giving up just because COVID is here.
SHOUT TO MY TWO NIECES CHARLIE & GEORGIE <3 I love you sweetpeas <3
Brittni Alexandra got involved in the beauty industry to make people feel great about themselves, give that confidence back however she can. People mock it as a shallow, superficial industry – but she shows us that the feeling of making people feel like themselves again is one of the most empowering and important services we can offer. She has a lot of clients whom have experiences like Jill; and her favourite part about her job is making her clients feel good, beautiful, and confident again. Treatments and conditions can cause people to loose hair, and people arn’t always aware but when that happens we loose certain features that frame our face. Brittni loves this medical rather than cosmetic aspect of what she does; working to bring those framework and confidence back to men & women who have lost it.
For the month of October, book your microblading, HD Brows, or lashes with B. Beautiful by Brittni Alexandra now for a chance to give back to RETHINK!
Stay Tuned; this will be happening again with Brittni and RETHINK in February 2021!