Beverly Kirkhart thought her life was over when her doctor delivered the news: "You have breast cancer." The diagnosis came after a painful divorce and the loss of her business, leaving her feeling as though she had hit rock-bottom. Between her personal setbacks and the debilitating effects of the disease and treatment, Kirkhart's self-esteem was shattered.
"One day, I looked in the mirror and thought, 'Who would love this?'" said Kirkhart. "I felt like a victim, unattractive and unloved, insignificant to myself and others."
Many cancer survivors feel they will never be the same. They cope daily with emotions like fear and anger, as well as body changes such as loss of a breast, change in skin color due to radiation, treatment-related hair loss and weight change. Tapping sources of inspiration and support, maintaining the activities of their daily life, and taking pride in their appearance can all help provide cancer survivors with an essential sense of normalcy and self-worth.
Kirkhart found renewed hope and self-confidence through journaling her experiences and feelings, which also helped her identify other strategies for sustaining a positive outlook and recognizing her inner beauty. Kirkhart is now sharing her inspirational message and practical advice with women across the country as co-creator of a new program designed to help breast cancer survivors reclaim their physical confidence and emotional well-being.
Along her journey, Kirkhart connected with Lisa Cole, a nationally recognized lingerie fitter and mastectomy form expert who presents lingerie fashion seminars throughout the United States; together, they created Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, How Do I Feel Underneath it All?™. The program is the first of its kind to include fashion advice combined with wellness and self-empowerment strategies to help cancer survivors rediscover their beauty from the inside out.
"Our program aims to help women rebuild their self-confidence, whether it's by choosing the right lingerie, keeping a journal of their experiences or working with their health care team to lessen the burden of treatment," said Cole.
Another critical element of the Mirror, Mirror program is the wellness discussion given by oncology nurse practitioner Jody Pelusi, PhD, FNP, AOCN, Arizona Oncology Associates, Sedona, Arizona, who provides strategies to help maintain not only physical but overall well-being while undergoing cancer treatment.
"My patients are often devastated by how they look and feel as a result of their cancer and its treatment, and I often counsel them on how to maintain a positive outlook and body image," said Pelusi. "For some of my patients, different treatment approaches, like oral chemotherapy, can have a positive impact by offering greater convenience and fewer severe side effects than intravenous therapy."