How 3 women learned to feel like themselves again after surviving cancer.
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Everything looks different after a cancer diagnosis, and that difference only continues once a patient enters remission.

The illness and treatment for the illness affect how a person looks and feels, and those changes can last for years if not forever.


At first, you're so focused on surviving that looks are an afterthought. But once your appearance begins to change, it can affect you as deeply as the cancer itself.

As a result, feelings about one's outward appearance become complicated and difficult to navigate. But with the help of family, friends, and a few professionals (plus a lot of internal fortitude), it can get easier.

We asked cancer survivors how they embraced their new normal. Here's what they told us.

Sabrina Wang looked towards what she'd lost and then started taking control of her future.

Photo courtesy of Sabrina Wang.

Sabrina was diagnosed with leukemia when she turned 19. She went into remission after 5 rounds of chemotherapy, but the cancer returned. After a bone marrow transplant that saved her life, Sabrina recovered but now lives with a lung condition and has entered early menopause.

Along with all of that, Sabrina had to process how cancer was changing her appearance.

"When I was battling and recovering from cancer, I was either bald or had really short hair, and I was overweight and bloated from the steroid medications I had to take," Sabrina writes. "I had always felt insecure about my looks throughout high school and just when I felt I was finally blossoming as a woman, cancer made me feel like an ugly duckling again."

Looking in the mirror was too much for Sabrina. Not being able to go outside, she remembers, was a comfort, because she couldn't imagine other people seeing her. But "Look Good, Feel Better," an event that her medical team signed up for helped her embrace the changes her body had been through.

"I attended the event with other young female cancer patients around my age who were all struggling with the same feelings about their appearance," Sabrina writes. "The things they taught us in that workshop went further than just wigs and makeup, they taught us how to appreciate what we still have and work with what we got. I realized there were things still within my control, and I started focusing on what I could control instead of what I had lost."

Sabrina's hope for people living with cancer is that they can focus on what they can appreciate, even when it feels impossible.

"I remember a turning point in my cancer journey was when someone commented that it was nice I still had all my lashes even though my hair was gone. I hadn't even thought about my lashes because I was too focused on losing my hair. That person's comment was a lightbulb moment for me. Since that day, I started to take deliberate notice of what I still had and I continue to do that today."

"When you have cancer, it's easy to feel sorry for yourself because you'll likely lose a lot of things. But I don't dwell on the things I lost. Instead, I choose to appreciate what I still have."

Cancer made Wade Brill question everything. Then she came upon a simple answer: Seek inner beauty and peace.

Photo courtesy of Wade Brill.

"Cancer shook me to the ground and rebuilt the way I see and feel in this world," Wade explains. "I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2010 and, while going through chemo, I lost my mom to her battle of Leukemia."

Being sick and losing her mother at the same time pushed Wade to find a new perspective on life. She decided that to live to the fullest, her priorities would need to change. She also changed the way that she viewed societal standards of beauty.

"I lost most of my hair during chemo and I feared looking like a 'cancer patient' while I was sick. I stopped looking at myself in the mirror. I went inward and worked on harnessing confidence and light from the inside out. To this day, I don't wear much makeup or spend a lot of time getting ready on the outside. I think it is more important [to focus] on how I "be" versus how I look, which was not the case for me before I got sick. I was so much more into brand-names and labels."

Focusing inward should also be about taking care of your physical body, which is why Walgreen's Feel More Like You service provides extra support for people living with cancer. Their pharmacists are there to offer recommendations for any side effects you might be experiencing while going through treatment, and talk through any concerns you might have about symptoms and/or medication.

Wade also learned to meditate and journaled her feelings. She changed how she spent her time by removing negatives from her life, starting therapy, and committing to healing herself in many ways.

"Foster self-love," she says. "It can feel hard to do so when it feels like your body is attacking itself, but you get to play an active role in the healing process."

"Find things that make you feel good! Whether that is a beautiful sweater you love to wear, a cute hat, beautiful earrings or an empowering necklace. Find at least one material item that makes you feel strong, empowered, and confident when you put it on.

"Look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'you are beautiful.' Meet yourself where you are, and don't try to hide from it. "

Sunday Burquest's diagnosis divided her life into a before and after. The greatest gift you can give yourself, she says, is time.

Photo via Sunday Burquest.

Sunday knew from past experiences with loved ones how difficult cancer treatment would be, but no one, she says, prepared her for the emotional and mental toll it would take on her or how her feelings about her appearance would change.

"I've had eight surgeries in an attempt to reconstruct my former appearance."

"My plastic surgeon is fantastic, but I still see the scars and the unnatural curves in my body. For several years, I looked like Barbie standing in the mirror, until I discovered a tattoo artist who specializes in helping women after a mastectomy."

Sunday's most important piece of advice? If you're undergoing cancer treatment, give yourself time to process the diagnosis and treatment, and allow yourself to deal with the emotions that come up in your own way.

"Don't allow others' opinions of what you “should" or “shouldn't" do dictate your decisions. Do what is right for you! Allow yourself to grieve the changes in your body, emotions, and relationships. Try not to expect to get back to normal. Rather, spend time creating your own “new normal."

"Don't compare yourself – you are you and beautiful the way you are, never allow anyone to make you feel as though you aren't the amazing bad-ass that you are!"

Everyone deserves to feel better and more like themselves — on the inside and out — no matter what they're going through.

That's why Walgreens created their Feel More Like You service.

Now at over 3,000 locations nationwide, the free service brings together specially trained beauty consultants and pharmacists to help people living with cancer receive individualized guidance and manage the changes they're experiencing and make them look and feel their very best, especially when faced with one of life's biggest challenges.

Feeling more like yourself is a step towards getting your life back. And if your "self" looks and feels different than it did before cancer, it's important to get to know that person and realize that they're just as worthwhile.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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