When life throws you a curveball and you find yourself fighting a tough battle, it’s immensely helpful to be able to look to someone else who’s gone through something similar. Breast cancer survivor Kim Angell has made herself that source of hope for other women by candidly documenting her journey with the disease on Instagram. (Related: The Latest Science On Your Breast Cancer Risk, Explained By Doctors)
Angell was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after turning 34. She quickly underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation; later, she opted for a double mastectomy. Now, two years later, Angell can officially say she won her battle—she’s cancer-free.
#fbf to this amazing photoshoot and punching fear in the face I'm trying to channel that inner badass again as I head back to work next week and feel nervous about the challenges that lie ahead. Having to set boundaries and not falling back into that superwoman mentality. Being confident enough to stand my ground and focus on what I can do versus what I should do. And listening to my body before it reaches the point of burnout and exhaustion. Going through this all has really put things into perspective and putting my health as number one is so much more important these days than anything. What challenges have you faced in going back to work? . : @vintagechicportrait
On her blog, Angell explains that when she was going through treatment, the resources available in her local community were designed for older women. But cancer doesn’t discriminate. She was in her mid-30s, and she couldn’t find enough information specifically for young women battling the disease.
Angell had lots of questions: She wanted to know whether she would be able to have children, what would happen to her body when she went through early menopause (a common side effect of cancer treatment), and how she was supposed to navigate her new normal when everyone around her was in the prime of their lives, she tells Health. (Related: 6 Breast Cancer Treatments You Need to Know About That Aren't Chemo)
“So, I started my blog, Smile Through the Fog, and shared my story through social media in the hopes of reaching other young women affected by this disease and letting them know they were not alone,” she says.
Since then, Angell has document every aspect of her battle with cancer, from her first round of chemo to her first day back to work. (Related: This College Student Was Diagnosed with Breast Cancer 2 Months Before Graduation)
On August 4, she shared this side-by-side shot of her head: the first image is from two years ago when she shaved it after her second round of chemo. The second shows her after getting a trendy haircut. “I couldn't bear to watch it fall out and wanted to take back control and cut it off before cancer had the chance to take it from me,” Angell wrote about the first photo.
Two years ago, I shaved my head after my second round of chemo. My hair couldn't hold on any longer and I watched painfully as each stroke of the brush came back full. I couldn't bear to watch it fall out and wanted to take back control and cut it off before cancer had the chance to take it from me. So I went into the salon that day with my best friend and got it shaved. Fast forward to today...the gratitude I feel each time I am able to go in for something once as simple as a haircut. And learning to embrace the breast cancer kicking badass that I am today
Jump to the second, where she has a fierce burgundy ’do, and you see a woman who’s learned to appreciate life in a whole new way. “The gratitude I feel each time I am able to go in for something once as simple as a haircut,” she wrote.
Angell’s page shows her most joyous moments and her most challenging; when she's on cloud nine and when she's at her most vulnerable. Through everything she shares, she’s helping other women who are facing their own battles, but she's also helping herself. (Related: I Survived Breast Cancer—but My Treatment Left Me With Permanent Side Effects No One Talks About)
"Being able to write openly about my battle with breast cancer and share my vulnerabilities has been one of the most healing parts of my recovery," Angell says. She explained it's helped her accept her journey for what it is, and above all else, it's connected her with a community of women who understand and support her. (Related: 6 Women Share What It's Really Like to Get a Mammogram)
To all others fighting breast cancer, Angell has a message for you: "Be your own biggest advocate. Listen to your body and stand up for your health. And be kind to yourself throughout the process. You are strong, you are beautiful and you are enough."
This story originally appeared on Health.com by Samantha Lauriello.