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Losing your identity: cancer, eyebrows and microblading

“It was more about losing my identity when I lost my eyebrows, and no one ever warned me about that.”

Eyebrows. Funny little things. Some are thick, some are thin. They can let people know if you angry or shocked. For the most part we forget the hairy little buggers are there.  

But, what if you didn’t have a choice and they were taken from you? What if the one thing many people forget about, is the one thing staring you in the face, making you feel imperfect and sick?

“When you hear the word cancer, I think a lot of times your first reaction is will I have chemo and it was hard breaking the news to my kids, because they wanted to know if I was going to be bald," said Lara Swift. 

She's battled breast cancer for three years. She’s lost her breasts, her ovaries, her hair and a sense of who she was. 

“They prepare you for losing your hair. What they don't tell you is, you lose all your hair, including your eyelashes and your eyebrows. You look sick and that’s what I didn’t want to look, especially to my children because if they see you looking healthy then they feel safe and secure, "Swift explained. "It was more about losing my identity when I lost my eyebrows, and no one ever warned me about that.”

Ceca Mijatovic, cancer survivor, founder and Cancer Coach for Truth or Dare added, “There’s a tendency to get identified with cancer. You become this 'cancer patient.' One of the ways we lose our identity is when we lose our eyebrows through the chemo treatment.”

Mijatovic helps women through their cancer journey with her program, Truth and Dare Cancer, by encouraging them to use cancer as a catalyst for positive healing. One of the ways to do that is by making sure they remember who they were before finding out what stage of decline their health was in. 

"The most important thing to start your cancer journey is to not lose your identity," said Mijatovic.

So, in 2018, Mijatovic partnered with Milly Marques, a microblading artist at Brows by Milly.

“I think we can do something wonderful here," Marques remembers telling Mijatovic.

Microblading is permanent makeup. Although the artist uses a small handheld tool to draw hair like strokes on the skin, it’s not a tattoo and is less painful. Marques’s done this technique for years, starting her practice because of her mom, who also lost her hair while battling cancer. 

“It was something I was trying to learn so I could fix her eyebrows," Marques said. "The thought of losing my mom to cancer is one of the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life, so to know I can put a smile on someone’s face because they wake up and feel prettier, there’s no words. It’s such an honor.”

On the day Marques talked to 11Alive, Swift was sitting in her chair, getting microblading done for free.

While visiting her oncologist, Swift saw a sign- literally- for Mijatovic's program. 

Mijatovic and Marques partnered to give two to four cancer patients, free microblading. And Swift, was one of the chosen. 

“Giving someone something back that belonged to them all their lives, whether it’s eyebrows or dignity or respect, whatever it is, is the greatest gift," said Mijatovic.

And it is a gift. Yes, it’s true, a pair of eyebrows can’t make cancer go away. But, it can help those fighting feel a little more in control.

“It’s all the little things and all the things you do to make yourself feel better, is you telling the cancer, you’re not going to get me," Swift added. "It strips you of feeling like a female and to get something back that helps you feel feminine or pretty or just more whole is, there’s really no words.”

Sometimes the biggest gestures can come in actions the size of a hair stroke.

Marques does all the work, pro bono. Mijatovic sponsors the free microblading once a year but hopes to one day do it quarterly for more women. To learn more about microblading, visit Brows by Milly or to learn more about Mijatovic's program or cancer coaching, visit Truth and Dare Cancer.

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