As you probably know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I recently had the opportunity to attend a luncheon and fashion show hosted by the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey (ABWLNJ). These women are dedicated to bringing awareness to fighting this disease and making a difference. I was there to interview the keynote speaker, who just so happened to be veteran journalist and former anchor of The Early Show, Rene Syler.
You may remember that Rene bravely shared her battle with cancer a few years ago. Having had a family history of the disease that included both her mother and father, Rene made the controversial decision to have a double masectomy. I was really looking forward to meeting Syler and hearing her story first hand.
Syler entered the room breezy and energetic. She mentioned that she had a slight cold, yet she was stunning in black leggings, a black tunic and a head full of curls that could rival any hair care ad. She wore a chunky necklace with flecks of copper that matched her heels. Rene was style and grace personified. That is when I had a lightbulb moment.
I remembered something I learned long ago: people are not the things that they go through. Experiences, may shape you. They may influence you. But they are not you. Knowing that soon Rene would stand in front of an audience and speak on what it is like to be a breast cancer survivor, I decided to chat with her about a few other things.
RDD: Your hair is beautiful. When did you go natural?
RS: A few years ago, I got a bad perm. My hair started falling out. I decided to not put chemicals back in. I love it.
RDD: We traded a few war stories on products and the ups and downs of going natural before I finally asked. What do you use to get that free look?
RDD: How do you to style it?
RS: I section it off and use Olive Oil ORS in the green bottle. I really like Cream of Nature Argon and I spritz with water, then I use a gel. Just a plain cheap gel and let it air dry. At night I use a scrunchy and always a satin cap. My poor husband [laughs].
RDD: I know that your children were a major inspiration to you. Do you have any advice for parents who want to get their children involved in philanthropy?
RS: Bring them along. Get them involved early so that it becomes natural for them.
Our conversation continues until it’s time to head to the ballroom for the program to start. Once at the podium, Syler shares her story while making sure the message is clear: Early detection is the best prevention.
Syler reminded the audience that the best measures of prevention are exercise, a healthy diet and mammograms. In answer to those who don’t exercise for fear of messing their hair up, she chastised that, “no one will peer into your casket and say, ‘wow her hair always looked so nice.’” To those who think that mammograms are too painful, she warned, “the pain of chemotherapy, radiation, and wearing out your knees in prayer pales in comparison.”
Syler says that while she lost some friends along the way, her family was always there. One of the things she’s most happy about is her book and companion website Good Enough Mother. Her other mantra is imperfection is the new black. Syler encourages mothers and women not to focus on being perfect or setting unrealistic expectations, but to be Good Enough. I think she’s on to something. Couldn’t we all use a few less demands on our time? That is how we take care of ourselves and those we love-without demand.
For more on Rene Syler, please visit her site Good Enough Mother.