On October 8, 2015, Nancy Valentino was diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided to utilize her YouTube channel to share her journey of treatment and recovery. Soon, her deeper mission became clear, and Nancy's goal evolved to use beauty and fragrance to motivate, inspire and remind women they can be beautiful, and look and feel their best throughout treatment.
As part of her mission, Nancy has created a non-profit organization, “Power Over Breast Cancer”, that includes her own line of beauty products, beginning with candles. She is a force to be reckoned with.
Nancy Valentino has inspired me personally, and the Demeter brand, in more ways than one. And that we at Demeter Fragrance were able to make a small difference in her life through the simple power of scent is what makes waking up in the morning at Demeter worthwhile.
Nancy, I can’t thank you enough for your courage, inspiration, and strength-- and for sharing your story.
Nancy Valentino, Beauty Vlogger and
Founder of Power Over Breast Cancer
September 18th, 2015—it’s a day I’ll never forget. It wasn’t a particularly special day, but I remember having this nagging thought coming over me all morning to do a self-breast exam. I was usually so diligent about doing them on a monthly basis but I had just seen my doctor in July and thought to myself “I’m fine, the doctor would have found something if there was anything wrong.” Yet as the morning went by, I had this feeling of dread coming over me to do my monthly self-breast exam. After lunch, I decided to “get it over with”. As I started the self-exam, my hands started shaking…this had never happened to me before I couldn’t understand until I felt it—I felt a lump in my right breast. I immediately felt the other side in the exact spot and didn’t feel the distinct lump that I felt in the right side. I was overcome with fear and panic…I started sobbing and shaking…I just knew this wasn’t good. I forced myself to get it together and call my gynecologist and book an appointment with her ASAP.
I suppose I’ve always been a little nervous when it comes to cancer. Cancer has affected my family many times. When I was 7 years old, my mom had to have her leg amputated due to a rare cancerous tumor. My family never discussed their emotions so I had to just internalize all the pain and fear I felt, I still remember it like it was yesterday. Ten years later, my mom had another bout with cancer. I was unsure if she’d be there for my high school graduation—another scary time in my life.
As I got older and had a family of my own, my childhood and my feelings about cancer were always there…lingering. It was a huge fear of mine to go through what my mother went through with a young child so when my daughter Audrey turned 8, I thought to myself “whew, thank goodness! We’re all happy and healthy!” The fear of getting cancer in my 30’s slowly started to subside. Five months later, I found the lump.
After meeting with my gynecologist, she thought it was best to have an ultrasound done of the lump, I moved forward meeting with a radiologist. In the beginning, everyone seemed to diminish the fear I had about the lump, the doctors were sure it was benign so when the radiologist’s findings were that it was most likely not cancer and to follow up in six months, I was overjoyed. My husband and I celebrated. I was overjoyed and hugged my daughter just a little bit tighter that night. Two days later, my doctor called and was not satisfied with the radiologist’s opinion. While I was annoyed that my doctor wanted me to see a surgeon, I conceded.
I had a biopsy done of the lump and opted to have my results given to me by phone. My doctor was so sure this was a benign tumor and she arranged to have her nurse call me with the results. So when I got the call one day earlier than expected and it was the actual doctor on the line…my heart sank. On October 8, 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I almost fell to my knees. I felt sick to my stomach. I thought of my daughter. Just one day earlier my biggest crisis in life was finding an appropriate autumn themed table cloth for our dining room table now I’m being told I have cancer?
The scariest part is that gray area of uncertainty—not knowing how bad it was, if it had spread. I spent the next few days breaking down as I tried to maintain a life of normalcy. I remember going to Target and seeing an older couple walking hand in hand and questioning if that would ever be me and my husband. I was angry and scared but I did my best to be brave in front of my daughter. I tried my best to laugh as much as possible and be around positive people and situations.
I was diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer, an aggressive cancer that’s fast moving. There was no doubt in my mind: I chose to have a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. I barely finished healing from surgery when I was scheduled to start chemotherapy, I would have to endure six treatments. Thankfully my cancer did not spread and was in an early stage. But as a precaution, chemo was most definitely necessary. I started 2 weeks before Christmas. I have to say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. For a beauty lover like myself, it was so hard to lose my hair among other things. While chemo ran my life’s schedule, I was not going to let cancer run me. Every step of the way, I did my best to glam myself up. I wore high heels to every treatment, I dressed up and carried my best handbag. In my mind, I had already won the battle which is why I felt the need to go public on my YouTube channel www.youtube.com/figurefriendlyfoodie. I don’t believe I was dealt the hand of breast cancer to go back to a mundane existence.
I never questioned why this happened to me, rather I look at it as part of my life’s plan. In many ways, going public with my story has been incredibly therapeutic. I focused on helping others fighting cancer through makeup and beauty—it was a great distraction. Because of this negative situation, I’ve started Power Over Breast Cancer www.poweroverbreastcancer.org, an organization to help breast cancer fighters. Through our website and my YouTube channel, I am dedicating myself to raise awareness for early breast cancer detection, as well as raise money for an important breast cancer charity in my local area. I just finished my last chemo treatment on March 22, 2015 and the future is so bright. While I still have reconstructive breast surgery to go through this year, as well as targeted infusion therapy for the rest of the year, I couldn’t be happier for my new chapter in life.