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What if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?

What if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?Today’s article is one I’ve been trying to write for some time, as it comes in response to a question I was sent a while ago from a reader.

The question she asked me was “What if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?”

I won’t go into the specifics of her situation, but this is a situation that many women face around the world every day.

Imagine you’ve spent your whole life feeling beautiful and womanly, you love your curves and every time you look in the mirror you connect with your body and how feminine it feels.

Then one day you’re diagnosed with breast cancer.

You have only once choice, to have a mastectomy, in order to save your life.

Thankfully, you recover, but the life that has been saved from death has been changed forever.

When you look in the mirror you no longer recognise yourself.

You wonder where the woman who used to look back at you has gone.

Wearing the clothes that used to make you feel good, now makes you feel self conscious.

Feeling good is no longer associated with feeling like a woman…it’s more about covering up and protecting the body that has changed so much.

Hiding from the world a body that no longer feels like your own…a body that no longer feels feminine.

I read, hear and watch stories like this all the time. The details might change…it could be relating to hair loss, an hysterectomy, or the loss of a limb that means that you’re no longer able to dance…but the essence is the same.

What if one of the things that made you feel most feminine is taken away from you? …or worse what if the thing that made you feel most feminine BECOMES the very thing that makes you feel anything but?

Well, I’m very lucky that I’ve never been through a situation like this personally, but I have shared the experience of many people who have.

So what do you do if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?

Well the first thing to do is to allow yourself to grieve.

Losing a part of ourselves that was tied to our identity is a big deal, and something that people don’t give enough recognition to.

It’s important to allow yourself to embrace, feel and experience the grieving process with regard to this aspect of yourself, and not deny your feelings around it.

You are likely to go through denial, anger, bargaining (or the “if only” phase), depression and finally acceptance. Sometimes we’re in so much of a hurry to get to the final phase that we don’t allow ourselves what we need in order to get there.

This has had a significant affect on your life, and it’s important to both acknowledge that and allow yourself to process it.

With regard to femininity specifically, it’s important to remember that (as I’ve always said) femininity has nothing to do with anything physical.

It’s not about your shape, your size, the colour or amount of your hair, what you wear, your makeup, your accessories, what you say or what you do.

It’s about who you are…and how you feel. It can be hard to recover from a knock to an important aspect of yourself…but it can be done.

This is a moment in your life where you get to play with and explore what connects you to your own feeling of femininity. Have some fun with it…try different things. It could be taking a walk in nature, a yoga class, spending time with animals or small children. There are a whole range of articles on the site that can give you a starting point to begin playing.

The key is to ask yourself the question, “What opens my heart?” …when you find the answer to that question, you’re deeply connected to your femininity in a way that a lot of women don’t usually discover.

All though it may not seem like it, this relates very much to a conversation that I’ve had on a regular basis with gay, lesbian and transgender friends.

As hard as this may be to understand when you’re going through something difficult, the fact that you’re going through it can put you at a huge advantage to most people who aren’t going through it.

For example, when you’re put in a situation where you are forced to face questions about your own personal feelings of femininity and masculinity (such as being gay in a society where it’s not always accepted, or losing something that connected you to your feelings of femininity) it brings this whole topic to the forefront of your mind.

It means you’re conscious of it, and when you’re conscious of it you can make the choices around it that are right for you. The vast majority of people walking the planet have never and will never stop to question what masculinity or femininity mean to them…which means they will never make conscious choices about them…and they will never get to experience what life can be like when you do.

I had an email a while back from a guy who was very upset because it had taken him 30 years to become comfortable with who he was as a gay man, and coming to term with masculinity and femininity and what it meant to him. The gift of his situation is that he had been figuring this out for 25 of those years…for me personally, I’ve only had the last 4 or 5 years to figure it out…and there are a lot of people who never will.

As hard as they are, these situations can be a gift…if you want them to be.

When you’ve gone through the grieving process and reached the point of acceptance with your situation, it can help to look back on what’s happened and see if you can find anything good that’s come out of it. Has there been an unexpected gift in your experience? What has it brought you? What have you realised about yourself? Who is in your life as a result of it? How could you use your experience to help or inspire others?

…and I’ll leave you finally with this fantastic quote by Jackie Morgan MacDougall which I think sums it up beautifully:

“I remember being asked shortly after my double mastectomy, “How does it feel losing everything that makes you a woman?” Funny, I didn’t know I had. My breasts didn’t define me before they were removed. My breasts don’t define me now. But every scar and imperfection does serve as a daily reminder of the strong, unstoppable force I am; ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes for the people I love. If that doesn’t make me a woman, I don’t know what does.” – Jackie Morgan MacDougall

Stay Fabulous,

Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is Kris Hallenga

Fabulous Friday Female Kris HallengaAs you know, normally on a Friday I do my own personal write up of the woman (or man) in question to share their amazing story…but having spent some time on the CoppaFeel! website I knew I couldn’t do justice to the story in the same way as they have…so here is Kris’s story in CoppaFeel!’s own words…

What happens at 23? Well, if you’re lucky, seeing a bit of the world, boozing with mates and a whole load of carefree fun. And if you’re less lucky? Breast cancer. Which is precisely what happened to Kris in 2009.

As nuclear–bomb–sized curveballs go, this was right up there with the best of ’em. Discovering a lumpy boob in June 2008, Kris did the done thing and took it straight to her GP, being sent away on the basis that, at her young age, it was bound to be hormonal. Six months and a lovely stint of travelling later, the ‘hormones’ still remained – so, when Kris’s no–bullshit mum marched her right back to the GP, she demanded a referral. But of course there’d be nothing to worry about, because breast cancer is an older woman’s disease, right? Wrong.

Eight months on, following a frustrating fight to discover just what the hell was happening beneath her bumpy bust, Kris discovered not only that she had breast cancer, but that it had spread to her spine. Kris was – is – at stage four, the most advanced type of cancer. There is no stage five.

Straight away, Kris was thrown into a routine of radiotherapy, five months of chemotherapy, and yet more radiotherapy. So long, carefree fun. So long, travelling. So long, boobs. So long, hair. So long, normal twentysomething life.

But as Kris became stable, the curveball remained. How couldn’t it – I mean, come on! She was 23! How the bejeezers could this have happened? Never one to rest on her laurels (read: keep quiet for long), Kris turned her shock and anger into pure kick–ass, immediately making it her full–time mission to encourage her friends, her generation, and YOUNG PEOPLE everywhere to keep hold of their wonderful, carefree lives by getting to know their boobs – and appreciating the fact that, shitty a reality as it may be, breast cancer can affect YOUNG PEOPLE, at any age.

And so CoppaFeel! was born. And by ’eck, did it land on Planet Earth with a bang. Having been started by Kris and her twin sister Maren just one month after Kris’s diagnosis, within mere weeks Kris was appearing on TV and in national press, raising heaps of cash for CoppaFeel!, and sharing her story in the hope of keeping other lasses and LADS from the same fate. And if you thought that breast cancer at 23 was surreal enough, try adding the Pride of Britain award and a Downing Street reception into the mix. From being a normal (okay, normal–ish) 23 year old, Kris’s life had suddenly become anything but. And yes, it’s been incredible. But it’s not the life she would have chosen.

After a secondary breast cancer diagnosis, Kris is not cancer free – and perhaps never will be. But she’s keeping as well as she can, being treated at the hospital each month with bone juice to keep her strong. And whenever she’s not in the presence of doctors, she’s pouring her heart, soul and a shitload of kick–ass into making a success of CoppaFeel!, not only refusing to let cancer wreck her party, but refusing to let it ruin yours too.

After all, we girls and boys are lucky enough to have been blessed with lovely hooters. So cop a feel, why don’t you – and let’s keep them that way.

Check out the CoppaFeel! message here:

So today I would like you to join me in honouring and celebrating Kris and Maren’s amazing work at CoppaFeel!, helping spread the word about the dangers of breast cancer for all ages, inspiring women and men everywhere and encouraging us all to ‘CoppaFeel!’ – I am…will you?

Check out the amazing work of CoppaFeel! through their website, facebook page and twitter

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As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female (or Fellow!), then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female / Fellow? (Her / his name and location in the world)
  • Why is she / he a Fabulous Friday Female / Fellow to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her / him online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women and men who inspire YOU. …and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!

Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is Jill Brzezinski-Conley

Fabulous Friday Female Jill Brzezinski-ConleyThis week’s Fabulous Friday Female is Jill Brzezinski-Conley.

Jill’s story is very touching, and given that she is only a couple of years older than me it’s one that really resonates with me.

This beautiful video tells a little of Jill’s story and her desire to inspire and help other women around the world who might be coping with conditions that have affected how their bodies look.

Here’s Jill’s story:

I was 32 when diagnosed with breast cancer & had a double mastectomy. My battle has been brutal but I see myself as survivor.  All I want is to help others.

Jill’s story has spread fast across the globe and she is overwhelmed by the support she’s received from so many. This site was created so  those who love Jill and are praying for her,  can share her journey, and for Jill to share with you, her story. It’s a place for Jill to help others. This remarkable young woman will change the way you live.

“I think the hardest time for me is the summer time. I  feel my self esteem kind of gets tested. I sit at the pool and I stare at these women who are so lucky to have these beautiful breasts that I once had and maybe I took them for gratide. Then I find myself snapping back into reality and I then look down at my breasts and I think why am I even complaining, I AM ALIVE!!!”

Jill Brzezinski-Conley was diagnosed with Stage IIIC invasive breast cancer one day before her 32nd birthday on July 15th 2009 – just 6 months after she married the man of her dreams. Her journey began with the most progressive form of treatment available. Contrary to what most people think, the younger you are, the more aggressive breast cancer can be. Jill’s treatment included 16 rounds of grueling chemotherapy, 31 rounds of radiation and 4 surgeries including a double mastectomy with additional surgery ahead. During her treatment she suffered a broken rib and endured serious complications after her reconstructive surgery. However her strength and determination proved pivotal, and after 2 years Jill was in remission and now considers herself a survivor.

Unfortunately 12 months later Jill found out she had developed bone cancer and at 35 years old, the prognosis is terminal. Through all of this, Jill has kept her wit, determination, and never ending smile, with no room for self pity, while frequently making jokes about her baldness, lack of eyebrows and eyelashes. Her sense of humor, courage, positive attitude and inner beauty is truly remarkable. Anyone who has ever met Jill will tell you that she leaves you with a lasting impression. The room lights up upon her arrival.

In September 2012, Jill’s best friend Nikki Closser reached out to world acclaimed portrait photographer Sue Bryce. Sue was so overwhelmed with Jill’s story and the message she wanted to share with the world, that she was instantly determined to help this beautiful girl spread that message. Sue arranged for Nikki and Jill to meet her in Paris where she would photograph Jill, capture her incredible beauty and help to tell her story to inspire others and educate the world about Breast Cancer. In Jill’s own words, to help women – even one woman. A fabulous documentary was filmed in Paris by Hailey Bartholomew and soon after Sue and Hailey had created The Light That Shines.

“There are two ways of spreading light. To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton.

What’s beautiful to me is that this story has three fabulous females in it.  Jill, her friend Nikki and the wonderful photographer who helped her to share her story, Sue Bryce.

So today I would like you to join me in acknowledging and celebrating Jill’s inspirational story, the sisterhood and support of her friend Nikki and the generosity of Sue to help to share this incredible woman’s message with the world.  

“Beauty is the light in the heart”…it’s important for every woman to know that light exists within her own heart (regardless of any scars on the inside or outside), and to let it shine for all to see.

To help and support Jill on her journey, you can connect with her here: https://www.facebook.com/JillBrzezinskiConleyBreastFriends or http://jillfightscancer.com/

 

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As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU.

…and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!

Claire x

 

Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is Hannah Foxley!

Hannah Foxley Fabulous Friday Female Feminine 1stToday’s Fabulous Friday Female is Hannah Foxley.

As I mentioned when I started doing the Fabulous Friday Female, this project is a group effort and I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate not just the women who inspire me, but also those who inspire YOU.

So a huge thanks goes out to Salli Glover who stepped forward and asked me to feature her friend Hannah Foxley as one of our Fabulous Friday Females.

Here’s what Salli had to say about Hannah:

Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU?

I met Hannah Foxley 3 months ago as she came to an event of mine & then joined the Scarlett Programme.

Hannah had breast cancer last year, not just once but twice, resulting in a year long rollercoaster ride of chemo, radiotherapy and eventually a full mastectomy.

All this came immediately following the death of her Father & Hannah had to work a full time job throughout as she had no financial protection.

In the space of 3 short months Hannah has quit that job which she hated and bravely started her own business as The Women’s Wealth Expert…Her mission being to ensure that no woman has to suffer as she did because they’re not protected, she is also passionate about helping women going through a divorce… any woman dealing with an unexpected life event.

She has created a facebook group called Beauty Beyond Scars for other women going through breast cancer and she very bravely shares powerful images of herself post mastectomy and inspires her members with inspirational words.

Finally, she has become an Ambassador for Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity & is aiming to get hundreds of women committed to raising £1000 each for the charity as well as bringing the charity media attention through her Beauty Beyond Scars images…

Hannah said of herself recently ‘I may have lost a boob but I’ve grown some balls!’ And she really has (whilst remaining gorgeously feminine!) I have never seen someone so bravely and courageously take themselves on to make a difference to others & the world.

You can see Hannah Foxley’s inspiring TEDx Talk here:

So please join me today in acknowledging and celebrating the Hannah for the inspiration she is sharing with others through bravely teling her own incredible story!

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As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU.

…and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!

Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is Lynne Hazelden!

Lynne HazeldenFor those of you who have been following my recent posts, it will come as no surprise to you that today’s Fabulous Friday Female is the incredible Lynne Hazelden.

When Lynne discovered she had breast cancer in 2010, aged 51, she knew she was in for a very tough time. Not only because the treatments for cancer in the UK are known to be aggressive but because her health was already seriously compromised due to a rare mercury and amalgam allergy, diagnosed at Guys Hospital in 1995. An allergic reaction to fillings had left her health and energy seriously impaired and her body highly sensitive to conventional drugs.

Lynne, who has made appearances in ‘Star Wars’, ‘The Bill’ and ‘Judge John Deed’ as well as working voluntarily with young people on The Hunger Project and for peace organisations, bravely decided to have a mastectomy. The aggressive effects that chemotherapy and other therapies can have, Lynne felt could be too much for her already compromised health.

While the surgery was successful, Lynne recently discovered another lump in her reconstructed breast and learned the cancer had affected her lymph nodes too. The second lump and some lymph nodes have now been removed but she doesn’t intend to take it easy until she’s not only raised the funds she needs for own treatment but awareness in the UK of the much kinder treatments for cancer that are proving successful in other countries.

Lynne has discovered new and successful pioneering treatment in Israel at the International Centre for Cell Therapy and Cancer Immunotherapy. The centre specialises in treatments for cancer which include a broad range of personalised therapies. With out help, Lynne is hoping to have treatment herself there but to also bring knowledge of the kinder treatments on offer to patients in the UK.

I personally feel that Lynne’s determination to help others through her own circumstances in spite of her compromised health is truly inspiring, and I would love for you to join me in celebrating her as today’s Fabulous Friday Female!

If you would like to help Lynne and her cause, then remember to Pay Forward a Pound (if you missed the post earlier this week you can find out how to help with just £1 here: http://feminine1st.com/pay-forward-a-pound-for-lynne/) to do your bit right now to help save Lynne’s life.

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As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well.  So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do?  In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU.

…and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!

Claire x

My Second Pay It Forward Experiment – Pay Forward a Pound to Save Lynne’s Life

So yesterday I shared my first Pay It Forward Experiment….today I’m sharing the second.  This is not any old experiment.  This has the potential to save a human life.

I have a question for you.

If you could save a human life right now with just £1…would you do it?

£1 is less than the price of a loaf of bread.

But £1 from you, plus three simple posts on either Facebook or Twitter is all it will take to save a life.

Lynne HazeldenA friend of mine, Lynne Hazelden, is battling breast cancer….having already lost her mother to cancer at just 12 years old.

She has already had a mastectomy, but has discovered a lump in her reconstructed breast…something that is quite rare.

Unfortunately, due to chemical sensitivities she is unable to undergo the usual treatment, available here in the UK, to tackle this disease.

In spite of her own ill health, Lynne is using her rare situation to help raise awareness and support for others who urgently need to find alternative cancer therapies which are not widely available.

There is hope for Lynne.

There is a treatment available in Israel that could save her life.

But in order to begin her treatment, Lynne needs to raise £30,000 in the next three weeks ….she then has to raise the funds to complete the therapy which could save her life.

The total amount to raise is £100,000.

With your help, she can get it.

(Click here to read more about Lynne’s story: http://kindercancerchoices.me/lynnes-story/)

Pay It ForwardThrough some inspiration from a few amazing friends (thank you to each and every one of you, you know who you are)…I realised that this target is not only possible, but through pay it forward it could be done in just 12 days!

As you probably know by now, Pay It Forward is about the exponential growth of kindness.

You do one kind thing for 3 people…asking them to each do something kind for 3 other people…and on it spreads.

So my new experiment is about “Paying Forward a Pound”.

The idea is very simple.

  • You donate £1 to Lynne’s treatment fund.
  • You pass on the message to 3 friends, asking them to each “Pay Forward a Pound” for Lynne
  • Each of them pass on the message to 3 friends….who pass on the message to 3 friends…and the ripple spreads…
  • In 12 days Lynne will reach her target and will be able to begin her lifesaving treatment.

So how do you “Pay Forward a Pound” for Lynne?

It’s easy.

There are just 2 simple steps.

1. Donate £1 now via the Just Giving website or Text donations:

2. Send the message about Pay Forward a Pound to 3 friends now, by just copying and pasting the text below:

  • Facebook / Google +  / Email  – Would you like to save a life today?  Pay forward just £1 now and in 3 weeks we will have saved the life of an incredible lady who is battling breast cancer – Visit here to learn about Paying Forward a Pound for Lynne: http://feminine1st.com/pay-forward-a-pound-for-lynne/. #PayItForward
  • Twitter / Text Message – Please pay forward a Pound now to save @LynneHazelden ‘s life clicky.me/72oz #PayItForward

As you know, feminine women are all about collaborating, working together, supporting each other, and emotionally connecting with others.  I say let’s tap into these natural gifts and use them to help save an amazing lady’s life.

By acting now, we will give Lynne the gift of her future.

Please, do your part to make this experiment a success.

Remember to Pay it Forward…

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x