Phototherapy For Breast Cancer Thrivers. It’s A Thing.

 In Articles, Interviews

BeautifulSelf.Org: Who they are and what they do

BeautifulSelf.Org and I began our love affair on social media. It started as a like here and there on IG. Before I knew it, we had our first coffee date. And that was it. In love. I can’t wait to introduce you to my newest friends, Michele Bonacorte and Jillian Veran Rezo. Follow them on Instagram you guys, seriously. Here’s the deal. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering breast cancer survivors, giving them their dignity back. They bring out the beauty you think you’ve lost as a result of your treatment, but no honey. Your beauty never went away. And that’s what they do. They restore your confidence through a 3 hour phototherapy session. Jillian is an expert makeup artist. Her hands are magic. Michele is a photographer with the most discerning eye, but one of the sweetest souls that I’ve ever met. They make an incredible team, to say the least. Here’s an excerpt from their website, which beautifully describes what they do:

“After surviving breast cancer many women find themselves waiting to return to the person they once were. The truth is, the social, emotional, physical and sexual ramifications of life during and after breast cancer treatment can wreak havoc on the feminine psyche. Because of the changes that take place long term, a woman often no longer views herself as whole or attractive. She finds it difficult to accept the new self, all the while feeling guilty that such wants are vain in the face of something as monumental as breast cancer. Beautiful Self understands, and believes a woman’s positive self worth is the crucial element to how she navigates and contributes to the world around her.Our founders, photographer Michele Bonacorte and Beauty Expert/Survivor Jillian Rezo combine their extensive professional talents, passion and high-energy creativity to provide an atmosphere of trust, laughter and excitement. Their powerful sessions peel back the layers of insecurity and self-doubt until a metamorphosis takes place. This often emotional transformation is documented through unapologetic images that live forever. ​They are a permanent reminder of determination and exquisiteness in the face of adversity.”

There is approximately a 6-month wait, but trust me it’s worth it! For information about these special sessions, visit their website. In order to keep this amazing mission going, donations are needed. both monetary and in-kind. If you’d like to make a cash donation, here’s the link.

Jillian and Michelle are always on the lookout for new evening gowns for their thrivers to strut their stuff in. Feel free to donate a gown here, sizes 8-22.

So there you have it! Without further adieu, below are the highlights of my phototherapy session with BeautifulSelf.org. These photos are intended to be a reminder of our strength, dignity and inner beauty that nobody….no disease…can ever steal from us. Thank you, Jillian and Michele, for all that you do! And keep scrolling down for my exclusive Q&A with each of these truly special ladies!

Exclusive Interviews…check it!

Jillian   

 

Q. What do you love most about the work that you do for Beautiful Self?
A. Being with my sister warriors, and having the ah-ha moments where we share our deepest issues, concerns, wants, even the most embarrassing ones lol, because you know our bodies just don’t work the same. There are things a non-survivor may not understand. It’s easy with a sister warrior, we just get it. Also, even though what we do can be exhausting emotionally and physically, I can’t wait to be there, in the thick of it, working with my gorgeous, joyous soul sister Michele, my amazing niece Kara, and creating art with a purpose..it’s a joyous healing energy bubble.

Q. Describe the most fulfilling moment since you’ve started Beautiful Self?
A. Too many to really say… but if I had to, two things.  The moment a survivor looks at herself and says “OMG” is that me?! And the elated dialogue we have afterward. To hear a survivor say they feel fundamentally changed, and believe they are gorgeous, it’s the greatest thing in the world.

Q. What’s the most important makeup tip that you can give to us?
A. I have been around the industry for 30 yrs. And the most important thing is this, and it’s the hardest thing for most people. Do you, and do it to the extreme! Stop worrying what other people think. Seriously, there is one thing that takes precedence above all when it comes to beauty. CONFIDENCE… no one is you, that’s your super power!

Q. It’s so scary when you first learn that you’re going to lose your hair AND your breasts. These are some of our most feminine assets. What advice would you give to someone who is about to start breast cancer treatment?
A. You can not focus on it. I always say anyone who thinks a woman needs hair and breasts to be sexy never met a fighter or survivor! It’s a mindset! You have to believe you are beautiful no matter what..and you are.

Michele 

Q. What do you love most about taking photos for Beautiful Self?
A. Being able to be a part of the moment “she” realizes her fire is ignited and to capture that exalted beauty on film is what I love most about my role as photographer for Beautiful Self.  Artistically my challenge to have our subjects realize and absorb the woman in the photos is her. Changing the dialogue from “that is beautiful”  to “ I am beautiful ”  – Believing is Seeing
Q. What’s the funniest moment that you can remember, as photographer for Beautiful Self?
Pretty much every session I leave the lens cap on : ) Laughter is definitely part of the Beautiful Self experience.
Q. Why do you think you and Jillian work so well together?
Jillian is my soul sister gift from the universe. More than knowing each other for over 30 years we are creatives who love to collaborate in imagery. Our synergy and love for each other is poured into the woman we nurture in our sessions.
Q. What is your ultimate goal for Beautiful Self? What is your mission?
Spreading awareness of the unspoken truths that happens during treatment and after one is labeled a survivor is what I am most vocal about.  Unless you have been directly impacted by this disease, the lay person really has no idea. Every submission to our wait list has a vulnerability that all women can relate to.  As a non-profit, part of the mission and hustle is finding and connecting funding to provide the support service.The ultimate dream and big goal is to produce an episodic show where every woman is a chapter of hope and empowerment, turning survivors into thrivers.
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Showing 4 comments
  • Carol Davenport
    Reply

    Jillian, I am the Walgreens photo tech who printed your photo books so you could drum up business in doctors offices and hospitals when you first started Beautiful Self! I’m not at all surprised at how far Beautiful Self has come over the years because you were so excited back then and your passion for these cancer warriors oozed out of your pores! (now THATS a pretty picture but it says it all!) I love following your posts! Continue to be that huge ray of hope in these women’s lives. May God continue to bless you all at Beautiful Self!

    • Cancer Fashionista
      Reply

      Carol, this is awesome! I’ll be sure to share your message with Jillian!Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Marcee Raffel
    Reply

    Awesome article!!! Just like what Beautiful Self does and who Jillian and Michele are!!! AWESOME!!!!!!

    • Cancer Fashionista
      Reply

      Thank you so much Marcee!!! I must agree they’re pretty awesome!

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