By Jane O. Smith of Stage Your Comeback
Breast cancer wipes you out for a time. It changes your body, it alters your mindset and it tests your ability to reclaim your best self. For Gloria Ortega, a one-year survivor, these were fighting words.
Her estrogen-receptor negative, progesterone-receptor negative and HER2 negative diagnosis in 2016, demanded aggressive intervention on all fronts. Throughout her chemo treatments, double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, exhaustion and conviction battled it out. As a 36-year-old Los Angeles police officer, maintaining her image took loads of energy and mindfulness.
Gloria took a stance that moved her forward faster. PRIDE in SELF. Instead of making room for despair, sadness, and pain, her dignity took center stage.
Focusing on what made her proud of herself wasn’t simple and it wasn’t easy, especially in her public life. The toll of hair loss, scarring, PICC lines and ports, and chemo cocktails was difficult at best. She strived to conceal as much as possible in order to look normal and healthy for friends, family and colleagues.
“I wanted my loved ones to still see me through it all. I wanted them to react to my news with love and not fear,” she explains. “To show them my strength without looking bad was my hope and my decision.”
She chose fashion as therapy. It honored her feminine presence in spite of her stitches, scars and bruises. Lovely wigs, fabulous heels and camouflage clothing fueled her poise and positivity. Make-up brightened her eyes and sweetened her smile and helped others to focus on her face instead of on her chest.
“Fake it ‘til you make it” spurred her onward with grace. Her spirit and essence rallied in the face of daunting odds and endless appointments.
“I kept as much of me as I could. Cancer couldn’t take it all. The me inside still mattered,” she claims.
Pride. Beauty. Creativity. Healing with style was her mantra. It helped her from the inside out. “I cried a lot but I picked myself up and stayed positive,” she says.
Glorious Gloria Tips in the Face of Breast Cancer:
- You can choose how you respond to cancer.
- You do not have to share your news until you’re ready.
- You do not have to share your news with everyone.
- Looking good is relative. Even if you have to redefine it based on the side effects of treatment, make time to experiment with color, hairstyles and clothing.
- Showing up looking good is an act of self-compassion.
- When you are inspired it is contagious. Be bold.
- There are no rules about what to wear. Change things up depending on how you feel and what you want to express.
- Celebrate your capacity to grow and to change during your journey.
- When you feel strong, show it! When you don’t feel strong, pretend!
- It’s okay to cry.
- You are the most important person in your journey, with or without cancer.
- Now that Eileen & Eva® is here, you can wear lovely and functional pieces that will wrap you in elegance!
“The Eileen & Eva® collection is terrific – I wish it was available when I needed it most, post-surgery, during treatment and through my breast reconstruction.”