In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Bernardo is honored to introduce our inspirational campaign, “Vested in Hope.” This powerful initiative is a testament to the strength, resilience, and hope that unite survivors, thrivers and anyone affected by a breast cancer diagnosis. Together, we can make a difference.
“Vested in Hope” proudly features four breast cancer survivors.
Through the lens of Mia Purdy, a Toronto-based survivor and extraordinary photographer, we embark on a visual journey that captures both her inspiring self-portraits and those of three passionate advocates for Living Beyond Breast Cancer: Nancy Herard-Marshall, Sonya Keshwani and Chelsey Pickthorn. The campaign aims to tell their inspiring stories of navigating breast cancer, highlight their indomitable spirit and provide a better understanding of a breast cancer diagnosis.
Their stories illuminate the path toward hope, support and empowerment.
Shop for a Cause
At the heart of this campaign is our Breast Cancer Awareness Reversible Puffer Vest, a Bernardo Exclusive, designed in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This vest is a symbol of warmth, comfort and unity - a wearable embodiment of hope.
Every purchase of the vest contributes to our unwavering commitment to the cause. Bernardo will donate 100% of the proceeds to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, an organization that provides vital support, education, and advocacy for those navigating the complexities of breast cancer.
Stories of Hope:
Nancy Herard-Marshall is a mother, wife, former dancer/actress, teacher, therapist, and healer, who uses her various life experiences to empower others and foster their healing.
In 2013 Nancy was diagnosed with DCIS and completed aggressive treatment. However, in 2020, during the COVID 19 pandemic, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Although navigating the diagnosis has been challenging, Nancy has continued to wear her many hats while showing up for herself, her family, and her community. Before her metastatic breast cancer (MBC) diagnosis, she maintained a private practice as the proprietor of Gaya Healing Arts, where she provided services to her community as a psychotherapist, dance/movement therapist, authentic movement practitioner, and Ra Sekhi Kemetic Reiki practitioner. Nancy utilizes artistic, contemporary, and ancestral healing techniques as emotional support to Black, Indigenous, and all people of color from a culturally affirming therapeutic approach. As a patient advocate, Nancy is an LBBC 2021 Hear My Voice alumni, a member of Komen’s MBC Steering Committee, and a Grasp Advocate.
“Be compassionate with yourself as you would with others. It’s a journey that you didn’t ask to be on, but you’re unfortunately on, and you need to make sure to take care of yourself.”
WHAT IS ONE COMMON MYTH OR MISCONCEPTION ABOUT BREAST CANCER THAT YOU'D LIKE TO ADDRESS? HOW DID YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE CHALLENGE THIS MYTH?
The thing that I want people to understand, especially women that are facing a breast cancer diagnosis, is to always remain vigilant. I wish I had been more vigilant, as this can come back regardless of all the things that are done right. I did a double mastectomy, I was vegan, I worked out and my current diagnosis is a recurrence after early stage DCIS. People are afraid to hear that and once treatment is over they want to forget about it. So that’s something really important I want to put out there.
NANCY, YOUR LIFE JOURNEY ENCOMPASSES A REMARKABLE BLEND OF ROLES AS A MOTHER, WIFE, DANCER/ACTRESS, THERAPIST, AND HEALER. HOW HAVE THESE DIVERSE EXPERIENCES CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR EMPOWERING APPROACH TO HEALING AND YOUR COMMITMENT TO FOSTERING POSITIVITY?
I am a former performer, dancer and actor and whenI decided to stop performing, I wanted to still stay in the dance world. There was a thing called dance therapy and the American Dance Therapy Association which is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual. I went to grad school and became a licensed creative arts therapist. In my journey with breast cancer it’s been very helpful. The trauma is in our body. When you go to talk therapy you’re dealing with things cognitively but we’re not dealing with what’s happening in our body. You can move those emotions and it’s important to have action to create transformation. You want to allow yourself to express these emotions, take them out, so you have more space to fill with positivity and joy. That has been what dance therapy has done for me.
Sonya Keshwani is the founder of StyleEsteem Wardrobe. As a breast cancer survivor, she experienced the challenges of losing her hair to chemotherapy at the young age of 29. Frustrated with the limited options available for head coverings, she created her own solution. Sonya drew from her love of fashion and began experimenting with different fabrics and her sewing machine during her chemotherapy sessions. Inspired by the elegant and feminine silhouette of the turban, she launched StyleEsteem Wardrobe, the first fashion label to design headwear according to the season and occasion. StyleEsteem’s mission is to empower every person through fashion, no matter where their hair journey takes them. Today, StyleEsteem’s designs are featured on runways and in the media globally, as well as on notable celebrities. However, Sonya’ s vision for StyleEsteem extends far beyond fashion.
As Sonya continues to build her brand in the fashion industry, StyleEsteem’s Grace with Style initiative supports a vast patient community through beauty and mental health programming, and turban donations. With a history dating back as far as 4,000 years, Sonya believes that turbans can be a symbol of empowerment and self-expression for everyone, regardless of their gender , cultural background, or hair journey.
“I wanted women to feel like they had headwear options that were made for them. Not for the patient in them, not for the chemotherapy, not for the surgery, but for the woman.”
WHAT IS ONE COMMON MYTH OR MISCONCEPTION ABOUT BREAST CANCER THAT YOU’D LIKE TO ADDRESS? HOW DID YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE CHALLENGE THIS MYTH?
The biggest misconception about breast cancer is the one we are told by society - that breast cancer leaves you a lesser version of yourself. Through my own breast cancer diagnosis at age 29, I unearthed layers of beauty and strength that I didn’t know existed in me. I realized that my femininity cannot be contained by my hair and breasts alone, and that fashion and life experience depicted a story of womanhood that is much more powerful. I came to see how my self-perception before cancer was quite limited. Now, I walk confidently into every day of survivorship knowing that no one but me can define me.
STYLEESTEEM'S MISSION TO EMPOWER INDIVIDUALS THROUGH FASHION IS REMARKABLE. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT A MOMENT WHEN YOU SAW THE IMPACT OF YOUR DESIGNS ON SOMEONE'S CONFIDENCE AND HOW IT REINFORCED YOUR COMMITMENT TO MAKING A POSITIVE CHANGE IN THE LIVES OF THOSE FACING HAIR LOSS DUE TO MEDICAL REASONS?
Having gone through a cancer diagnosis, I know first-hand how dark and isolating the experience can be. The last straw is when hair loss takes away your connection to your identity. For me, that’s where the idea of StyleEsteem comes in. It is a reminder that no one thing can define your life story and that your turban can be your superhero cape. When we launched our Couture Collection at New York Fashion Week, we celebrated the significance of headwear history with designs that honored cultures and religions across the globe. We heard from so many of our StyleEsteem Queens about how this collection made them feel seen and celebrated. How it gave them a sense of pride that their lives had been touched by headwear. It made them feel like their hair journey was about more than just cancer, it was about their own story, their own history. Seeing the impact of these innovative collections inspires us to keep pushing the envelope, and to work toward eliminating the gaps between fashion, cancer and the woman herself.
Originally from Portland Or. Chelsey divides her time between NY and Sonoma. As a 4th generation breast cancer survivor currently living with triple-negative metastatic disease, she actively incorporates a holistic approach with conventional medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC. Chelsey’s original diagnosis at thirty-three proved the importance of lifestyle alterations. She actively incorporates conscious consumption, a personal self-care routine, the elimination of negative energy, and the mitigation of stress. She attributes her current status of NED to her merging beliefs of finding a balance between Eastern and Western medicine.
Chelsey began her career in hair design at the young age of 18. She committed her entire life to actualizing her dreams. With a metastatic diagnosis at the age of 35, she couldn’t deny what the universe was pushing her toward, advocacy. She is extremely passionate about access to equal care and information, medical trials, and holistic adjunctive treatments. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Chelsey believes we need to have hard conversations with an open dialogue. She intends to share her life experiences with the world in hopes to dissolve the preconceptions of what “sick” looks and feels like.
“The transition from a 20-year successful career in hair to advocacy wasn’t what I had in mind. But when the universe kept pushing me towards it, I could only push back so much.”
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH LIVING BEYOND BREAST CANCER AND WHAT ROLE DID THE ORGANIZATION PLAY THROUGH YOUR JOURNEY FROM YOUR ORIGINAL DIAGNOSIS TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
When I was diagnosed metastatic I realized that I needed more support, I needed people that got me and my diagnosis. I needed to find a community that was able to hold space for me in my new life. I flew out to Philly three months after my diagnosis to the annual Mets conference held by LBBC. In 2021 I became a Young Advocate, and this year I am a Board Chair for the annual Butterfly Ball held on November 11th. Being a young lesbian diagnosed with Metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancer, Living Beyond Breast Cancer checked a lot of boxes for me. Growing up around my mother who was diagnosed at 40 and started a non-profit, I saw mostly middle-aged white women affected by breast cancer. I needed to find my community. A community of diverse people with different diagnoses and different experiences. TNBC is most commonly found in Young, Black, and Jewish people.
AS A MEMBER OF THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY, YOU EMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF OPEN DIALOGUE. COULD YOU SHARE SOME INSIGHTS INTO THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES OR PERSPECTIVES YOU'VE ENCOUNTERED AS BOTH AN LGBTQIA+ INDIVIDUAL AND A CANCER SURVIVOR?
Data. We live in a world where data is needed to make changes and to get things done. Being a member of the LGBTQIA+ I have learned that we have very limited and accurate data; especially regarding Metastatic patients in the community. Access! People in the community are more likely to develop late-stage breast cancer due to fear of going to the doctor, doctors disregarding their issues, and the fear of being misgendered and misunderstood. We need to have an open dialogue and a better understanding of the needs of those in the community. As a cis-gender white woman, I consider many of my experiences “normal” but the reality is I am a member of the community whose data is potentially not being captured as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Mia Purdy, Campaign Photographer
Mia Purdy is a mom, photographer, breast cancer rebel and advocate based in Toronto, Canada. She loves documenting relationships and connection; showing raw, authentic portraits.
In August 2020, two days after turning 36, Mia was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mia’s path included a single mastectomy, which successfully eradicated the tumor and marked the beginning of her battle against the disease. This path led her to make profound choices, such as undergoing hormone therapy, the surgical removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes, inducing an early onset of menopause, and ultimately, a second mastectomy. Mia’s decision to embrace a flat, reconstruction-free aesthetic closure was a powerful testament to her unwavering strength and self-acceptance.
Photography has helped her heal more than anything else on this journey. Self portraits and photo sessions with other photographers have helped her see beyond her scars, beyond her diagnosis and connected her with people worldwide who are dealing with similar issues. She shares her story, her scars, and herself as much as she can, reminding others to know their body and the importance of advocating for their health.
“To share my art. To show them how I view them. How I see them. To share in this experience together. It’s not only healing for them. It is so healing and therapeutic for me. It nourishes my soul and it helps me connect with this community.”
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS WHO MIGHT BE FACING A BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS OR ARE SUPPORTING SOMEONE THROUGH IT?
My advice would be to be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself. And trust yourself. None of this is easy. It’s completely unfair. Life will be turned upside down from now on. Giving yourself grace and understanding is so important. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to your best friend if they were going through something like this.
HOW AND WHY DID YOU BEGIN DOCUMENTING YOUR JOURNEY?
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, my treatment plan was surgery first. I had about 2 weeks to decide what surgery I’d like to do. I had wanted a double mastectomy and thought I would have reconstruction at some point. I couldn’t do it all in one surgery like others do because I didn’t have time to organize that. So I was to move forward with a single or double mastectomy first, with reconstruction later.
My husband and I decided to Google images of mastectomy scars to see what my body may look like after. While my husband was fine with whatever decision I made, when I saw those photos I had a panic attack. The images were cold, clinical and of women much older than me. It was hard to find photos of younger people showing the scars I would have. In the end, I chose a single mastectomy. After surgery, I felt horrible about myself. I could barely look at my scar or my reflection in the mirror. My friend suggested we take photos to show my scar, to document my body at this stage. I was all for it, even though I hated how I looked. I thought these photos will be for others, not for me.
However, when I saw the photos, I burst into tears. I didn’t see the ugly, scarred, weird looking woman I had been envisioning. I saw me. Scarred, yes. Ugly? No! I felt beautiful. I honestly could barely believe it. I didn’t see that coming - the self acceptance, self love. Doing that first photo shoot and seeing myself through my friends’ eyes helped me heal more than anything else I’ve done since my diagnosis.
So I continue to document my body and share myself with others. Hopefully they’ll see my photos instead of the clinical ones when they look up images of mastectomy scars. ABOUT LIVING BEYOND BREAST CANCER: Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer. To fulfill our mission of providing trusted information and a community of support, we offer on-demand emotional, practical, and evidence-based content that is meaningful to those newly diagnosed, in treatment, post-treatment, and living with metastatic disease.
Join the Movement
Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month by posting yourself or someone special wearing our Breast Cancer Awareness Reversible Pink Puffer Vest and tagging #VestedinHope to spread awareness, hope and support access to breast cancer resources.