By Liana Jacob
MEET the inspiring woman who battled CANCER in her TWENTIES leaving her insecure about losing her hair but has since beaten the disease and set up a company that aims to help fellow cancer sufferers feel bald and beautiful.
Cancer Chicks founder, Olivia Smith (23), from Southampton, UK, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2018, a type of lymphoma that is believed to result from white blood cells of the lymphocyte kind, despite doctors initially passing off her chest pain symptoms as a result of alcohol.
She spent the beginning of her chemotherapy sessions feeling insecure as her hair began to fall out. She had 12 rounds of chemotherapy sessions and she would use wigs to hide her bald head, but as time went on, she realised that she was battling a tough illness and wanted to embrace the journey to show she is strong. She proceeded to ditch the wigs and post on social media to encourage other cancer fighters not to feel ashamed of their appearance and journey.
Olivia was given the all clear by her doctor in August 2018, who told her she is now in remission and the treatment worked successfully.
Throughout her recovery journey, she began receiving countless messages on social media from other cancer fighters seeking advice. After completing a questionnaire, she found that over 80 per cent of young women thought the change in their appearance was the most daunting thing about cancer.
This inspired her to set up a Facebook page called Cancer Chicks as a source for anyone going through a similar ordeal to be able to get in touch.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer as a girl in my early twenties, I found that the most daunting aspect of the treatment was how my identity was going to be ripped away from me,” Olivia said.
“I didn’t want to become known as the ‘girl with cancer’ so I did everything possible to remain feeling stylish and ‘like myself’. Fashion and beauty was how I managed to remain feeling so confident throughout my diagnosis.
“I began getting hundreds of messages from people in the same position as me seeking advice. I also did a questionnaire where I found that over eighty percent of young women found the change in appearance the most daunting thing about a cancer diagnosis.
“I felt that there is so much support out there for all aspects of cancer apart from the change in identity you go through, which is perhaps deemed as less important by health professionals.
“Eventually I found it impossible to keep up with all the messages, so I made a Facebook group for everybody to connect and I called it Cancer Chicks.
“The Facebook group now has way over five-hundred members; I began creating and sharing content on wigs, headscarves, fashion to cover your PICC or Hickman line, makeup, skincare and scars.
“Cancer Chicks aims to keep people feeling stylish and confident through and beyond cancer. We aim to unite people who understand what one another is going through.
“Through my cancer treatment I always felt that I was being hugely supported in every area other than when it came down to my confidence and the huge change in appearance.
“But I was so grateful to be able to connect with so many via my blogging, who felt the same as me, and therefore we had one another.
“However, I know not everybody is in the same position as me with being able to find people via a blog, so to have this readily available is so much more accessible.”
Cancer Chicks has now partnered with Trekstock, a young adult cancer support charity, and together they aim to help as many other cancer sufferers feel beautiful.
“Trekstock came into my life when, in my second year of university, when cancer wasn’t in my life, I did a project on the charity,” Olivia said.
“I did lots of research on the charity and felt so inspired by the people they supported. Little did I know in a few months’ time I would be one of them, after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in February 2018.
“Together we can provide the best possible support for young adults living with cancer in the UK. Together we will address more key issues, such as confidence, by putting on events about finding your style after facing such a huge change to your appearance.
“Cancer Chick members have commented, ‘I absolutely love this Cancer Chicks group. It’s given me so much advice and confidence through my treatment and kept me going on my darkest days.’
“When Cancer Chicks announced its partnership with Trekstock somebody said, ‘It’s like my two best friends have gotten married.’
“To know that I am hopefully making someone’s life with cancer more bearable makes the fact that I had cancer so worthwhile.
“If I didn’t have cancer those five-hundred Cancer Chicks members wouldn’t have Cancer Chicks. It just makes everything worth it.
“My life has meaning now. My favourite quote is ‘No Rain, No Flowers’, because without me going through a bit of a rubbish patch I wouldn’t have be living with such passion as I am now.”
For more information visit: https://www.instagram.com/oliviarosesmithx/
Cancer Chicks Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cancer.chicks/
Trekstock Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/trekstock/