Fight For Life: Style As A Secret Weapon

Every now and then an image or a collection of images can be so beautiful that it can transform the way you think about something – even if it’s as destructive and pervasive as cancer. That’s the power of Angeles Almuna’s social media feeds where Angeles is harnessing her love of style to empower her cancer story. Angeles is an artist through and through; she’s a stylist, photographer, dancer and of late, an all-around cancer crusher who’s chipping away the ugliness associated with the illness with fashion-infused videos and photos that are both vulnerable and triumphant at the same time. She is the ultimate GLAM4GOOD heroine – someone who is using courage and personal flair to overcome something that’s physically and emotionally invasive while inspiring others. Angeles’s desire to look good is really an affirmation of life in the face of the great challenges that lay ahead for her.
Angeles was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer a day before her birthday (ironically her zodiac sign is “Cancer”) and decided immediately that she was going to fight the illness in style.  She says,

“I can not be so down and devastated by this illness. I need to wake up and fight with my best positive mind…but it’s not always easy. I try my best [on the tougher days] to say to myself, ‘Come on, try to look good and pretty – you’re still a woman and you still are a woman with style, who has something to say.”

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She feels that personal style has a strange healing power because it’s an opportunity to be brave; it’s showing the world that you can continue to live your life with the same personal expression that you’ve always put forth, even in the face of illness. “I put all my effort forward to look good…I try to give my best energy to others that are fighting alongside me.” That said, accepting the physical changes weren’t easy – especially as a woman known for her impeccable taste. Angeles said that going bald from chemotherapy was very upsetting but she figured out how to wrap her head in a turban, which she fashioned from a long cotton scarf that she adorned with pins and vintage brooches. Some people just assumed that she was rocking one of her fashion forward new looks and that nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

“My turban gave me confidence to be me again, giving me a powerful tool that helped me stand up during the most difficult time of my life.”

Like many who have suffered from cancer, however, she admits that there are extremely dark moments when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. “One day I was so down…I was crying, not eating, no energy…I wanted to disappear and wake up from the bad nightmare. I wished this cancer thing was a film that ended happily after two hours…but of course that didn’t happen,” she says.

Luckily, like many creative people, Angeles is able to stay positive throughout the emotional roller-coaster by keeping her artistic juices flowing. Her surgeon encouraged her to continue to work (when she has the energy) because holding on to one’s passions are a powerful tool in overcoming sickness. She found that sharing her difficult journey over social media fulfilled her in a way that she hadn’t anticipated. On Facebook  she could announce when she was going to “Chemoland,” and a different friend would volunteer to join her each session. Over Instagram she documented her chemo treatments, counting them down with numbers and a smile. And finally, she was able to illustrate how to still look amazing in the midst of cancer

“People know me for my fashion adventures, so I decided to share my illness in a very public way – the good, the bad and the creative moments. And I have to say that it’s been the best decision because it’s been therapeutic for me but I also think that I inspired others with my honest story. I taught my friends about the cancer process but I also got to share my style – like how to look good in a turban and still feel like myself…Even though I was sick I could still look fabulous!”

Angeles says that the whole cancer experience has been filled with both horrible and also not-so-horrible moments. When she was first diagnosed, she didn’t quite know what to expect and to compound that, she was in Miami without her family. After the initial “Why me?” reaction, she felt vulnerable, and then angry. But one day she thought that this might be happening to her for a reason. So after eight months of treatment, something motivated her to express herself online, to create posts on her blog, and to share on Instagram and Twitter  allowing her to connect with people in a unique way. She found that her illness gave her a tool for which to communicate using her own voice, and with her one-of-a-kind style. Artistic projects and collaborations were the fruit of her sharing, and this was an unexpected but wonderful consequence. She gave a speech at the University of Miami during Cancer Awareness Month, was invited to The White House, and was both honored and hosted events to promote knowledge about the disease.

After a cancer-surviving friend suggested that she do something special on the day that she cut her hair, Angeles decided to make a video as an experimental project. Having it filmed felt like the right way for her to experience that moment and to share it with others. “I wanted to show strength, reality and beauty but at the same time expose vulnerability, pain, life, love, art and the real me,” she says. Angeles presented the video – which could be considered a short film – at a local Miami festival called NOLA. The director is Miami based filmmaker, Carlos de Varona. The film is titled The Storm Inside Castanet. “When you have cancer and your confidence is gone. I wanted to say that even though I look different, there is so much beauty in winning this battle,” she says. “I learned that there is something really powerful inside of me that allows me to deal with this…also that my body is a temple and it has to be my priority, so if I have to slow down in my daily life to be less stressed and more healthy, then I will do it,” she says. Finally, she adds that she is stronger than she ever thought she was and is willing to fight with all her heart, an amazing message to just about anyone facing anything hard.

“I believe in life and I know that this life has something really important for me – to be a better person!”

8 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    This is such a special, moving story! The video and pictures are insanely gorgeous!!!!

  • anonymous says:

    Angeles’ story, photographs and video are very beautiful and have a special meaning to me, who as a young woman of just 18, watched as my mother experienced breast cancer. It metastasized and she ultimately died but her journey, tho always filled with hope, was a sad one. There were invasive treatments and also the shame of having cancer, as well as the heart break of knowing that three children would be left without a mother. That was over 50 years ago but the images of her surgeries, mutilation and suffering remain vivid in my mind. Medicine has made great advances since then and it is stories like Angeles’ that continue to change our thinking about a malady that was once not even talked about. Oh how I wish my mother could have seen this beautiful video, the photographs and read Angeles’ life affirming story! This post is about beauty and strength on so many levels and has important lessons on what it means to fight the good fight and to be a survivor. Thank you Angeles for sharing your journey – you are an inspiration.

    • Dear Anonymous,
      I read your comment several times because I wanted to write you in the best accurate way. Also say thank you for reading my story and shared part of your story with us in this comment.
      I am agreed with you that medicine is completely change in the last 20 years or more, let me tell you my grandmother passed away from breast cancer in Spain because it was to late when they found it. Cancer is so invasive, not just the tumor inside in my body , it is al around, it is affecting my whole life, from emotions to pain to mind and my soul, Cancer sucks. And I am so glad to hear your story with your Mom because I am not the only one, there are thousands of different cases and many worst than mine case.
      I am so privileged that Mary Alice gave me this opportunity to tell my story in my way, through beauty, style and fashion ….. but I just I want to express myself because it has been the most difficult time in my life. Being alone in this process has been very emotional, my family are so far away, so I found my support in my friends and in my social media. So, reading from your comment that I can be inspirational , it is the best things ever than it is happening to me, the best gift! I am just a woman, with some crazy creative ideas than now she is having the opportunity to communicate through a illness that it is giving me a special tool to help others; “I am fighting this Cancer in the best way possible but at the end of this journey I will say – I survived and I won”.
      Kisses,
      Angeles

  • anonymous says:

    My dear Angeles, you are doing such a wonderful thing by sharing your experience while making it one of beauty and hope.
    You are taking control of how you deal with cancer and that is so life affirming! As I hinted above, my mother was so defeated by cancer which included the extreme treatment (if you have read the book or seen the film “Emperor of All Maladies”, you know how invasive the treatment was in the early 60s.) She was a beautiful woman and much of her sense of identity was based on that so when cancer hit unexpectedly at age 43, along with what the treatment did to her physical being, she was defeated and bitter (tho putting on a happy face for many). I was there, helping with the ravages of radical surgeries, radiation, nitrogen mustard, hysterectomy, nausea and her approaching death. As for me, as a young woman just entering womanhood, to have seen my mother dealing with cancer in the way that you are, would have been so much better. I have always thought I would die young and once vowed that if I ever had cancer, I would commit suicide rather than go through what my mother went through. Fortunately that didn’t happen. Today, I am heartened to see many of my friends who have survived cancer and are leading healthy happy lives but I know little of their struggles. Which is where you come in! By sharing your battle and making it something not so frightening, not so sad and not so hopeless or shameful, you are giving others the idea, inspiration and permission to do the same – to take charge and to deal with cancer in a positive and beautiful way- with courage, strength and grace. You are to be lauded and every day I will be sending love and positive thoughts your way.

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