Cancer Chic was created by two young female cancer survivors – Karla Laing and Heather Alvas – in Calgary, Alberta in 2011. It was developed based on a need that didn’t exist in the Calgary Cancer community. And that was a workshop where women with any type of cancer could learn about the benefits of fitness during a cancer diagnosis. But also gain a deeper understanding that we are exposed to over 100 different chemicals in our beauty routines every day and how to limit that through healthier choices. The topics we cover are relevant both during and after treatment.
Our workshops provide women the opportunity to connect and have relevant conversations about their current challenges. We explore an in-depth presentation about the advantages of physical fitness during and post-treatment. Plus, many ideas to stay motivated even on those days where fatigue might win the battle. We provide all our participants with a goody bag filled with chemical free make-up and body care. During our time together, an experienced make-up artist demonstrates tips and tricks on how-to use the new products. Hair loss is also a big challenge that we’ll discuss and what to expect when your hair grows back. We also offer a segment where participants will identify and deepen their connection to their own values and how that impacts survivorship after treatment.
Our approach is a celebration of life in the face of cancer. One way we do that is through sharing our personal experiences, both positive and negative. We don’t offer any medical advice during our time together – we leave that to the experts.
I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in November 2009 although I had known for some time that something wasn’t quite right with my body. I gave birth to my second daughter in August of 2008 and, after that, proceeded to get into the best physical shape I’d been in 20 years. Fortunately I knew my body and self well enough to question why, when I should have been feeling top-notch, I was feeling increasingly tired. Through a series of tests I was given my diagnosis.
One of the first questions I asked my oncologist was, “Will I be able to continue working out?”. I truly believe that there is a strong connection between physical activity and mental well-being. I continued to strength train with a personal trainer throughout my 6 months of chemo and was able to get back to where I was within 3 months of completing treatment.
Additionally, I became curious as to how I could keep from getting cancer again. I knew fitness was key but I also began to discover that every day we have many chemical exposures and for women, a load of them come from our make-up, hair, and beauty products. I am continually trying new brands of clean shampoo, lotion, and make-up and passing that information onto friends, family, and participants.
My life is better because of cancer. I look at life differently, I appreciate little things, and I try to live mindfully because we only get one shot at life and I want mine to be extraordinary!
Everyday is a new beginning, stay away from what might have been and look at what can be.
Cancer Chic partners with The Thrive Lab at the University of Calgary founded by Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed. Her research and knowledge gives our participants the opportunity to learn more about the benefits of strength and cardio training during and after their cancer treatment.
Her work is on Physical Activity for Cancer Survivors, and focuses on utilizing a multidisciplinary perspective to understand and improve the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors. Specifically, the goal of this research is to develop physical activity programs that positively impact the myriad of physical and psychological factors that cancer survivors experience, ultimately enhancing their quality of life.
Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed is an Associate Professor in Health and Exercise Psychology in the Faculty of Kinesiology, and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Oncology in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary. Dr. Culos-Reed also holds a Research Associate appointment with the Department of Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
Dr. Culos-Reed may have one of her researchers present at our workshops.