Melissa Herrmann, 43, mother of 2, devoted wife, loves her lipstick, and had her wings clipped one day.
[blockquote]“I’ve always loved lipstick, my whole life,” she says. “If I’m going to wear any piece of makeup, it’s going to be lipstick.”[/blockquote]
Melissa was 27, living the dream life that any proud Parakeet would. She was married to the man of her dreams, two small boys, and a great family life. And that’s when she found the lump.
Her doctor dismissed the lump. No one in her family history had ever had cancer, much less breast cancer and they told her she was too young to have breast cancer. She continued to fly as normal.
“I actually found the lump when I was about 27,” she says. “My doctors kept telling me it was nothing because I was too young and it didn’t run in my family.”
Over the next 5 years, the lump didn’t go away, it just became bigger and at 33, she decided it was time for a new doctor! She insisted it be removed.
After Melissa had the lump removed, her suspicions were confirmed and she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in March 2003.
CLIP CLIP, her colorful feathers were clipped right off…
She felt angry and betrayed by the previous doctors…
…and this won’t be the only thing she feels betrayed by.
She began chemotherapy two months later, and lipstick became more than a just fun pop of color.
[blockquote]“Your body doesn’t look the way you’re used to it looking,” she explains. “You have a lot of scars. You lose your hair. Wearing lipstick was one thing I could do where I felt pretty and more like myself because I wasn’t feeling like myself at the time.”[/blockquote]
[box type=”warrning_box” color=”btn_orange”]But what she didn’t know, was that she was still placing toxic chemicals on her body that can not only accelerate the growth of breast cancer cells, but can also block the ability of cancer drugs to do their job. No one ever warned her.[/box]
Lipstick was her favorite makeup item during chemo, she wanted to do what she could to make herself feel beautiful, which became an important part of Melissa’s mental recovery, especially at those times when her confidence was tested to the core.
[blockquote]“People didn’t understand why I was bald because I was so young. They would say cruel things because they didn’t know I was a cancer patient. They thought I had shaved my head for other reasons,” she says.[/blockquote]
During an annual art fair in Salem, Oregon, about 30 minutes outside of her town of Mill City, Melissa experienced the shocking true nature of humanity’s ignorance and it shook her spirit.
[blockquote]“I was walking to the park, and I was wearing a dress and I didn’t have any hair. This car drove by with 2 women in it. They rolled down the window and said, loud enough for me to hear, ‘What is that? Is that a man or a woman?’”[/blockquote]
Though that was a crushing moment for Melissa, she also experienced moments of immense kindness that lifted her above the awful comments.
“Earlier that day, I was at the grocery store with my wig on. A man came up to me and said, ‘If no one has told you today, you look absolutely beautiful.’ He had no idea that I was bald underneath that long, lovely hair,” she says. “He was my angel that day. I focused on that after the comment from those rude women.”
[box type=”note_box” color=”btn_violet”]Long after she was considered in remission, Melissa was shocked again. This time, by the toxic chemicals in her beloved makeup she had cherished while undergoing treatment.[/box]
Most lipstick has a disturbingly long list of ingredients, including gluten, soy, animal products, Phthalates and Parabens.
[blockquote]“There’s no FDA approval, they’re [makeup] made in other countries, and you don’t think about that,” she says. “The way that they [big box cosmo] advertise just makes it seem okay. I felt angry and betrayed when I found out what was in my lipstick [from Red Apple Lipstick founder Jay Adam Harper’s book ‘Toxicity in Common Makeup.’]”[/blockquote]
Perhaps the most disturbing of the ingredients are parabens, common preservatives used in cosmetics. Parabens have recently been linked to fertility issues and breast cancer.
“Studies have actually found parabens in tumors and in breast tissue. Not just one type, but all six,” says Harper. “You can see that the use of parabens explodes around the same time that breast cancer does.”
Melissa’s cancer is behind her for now, and she wonders if the lipstick she’s loved all her life could have contributed to one of the scariest ordeals she’s been through.
[blockquote]“I thought, wow, my tumor is long gone, but I wonder what they would’ve found if they could’ve done more tests on it to see if there were any affects from the parabens.”[/blockquote]
She admits that even if the product packaging contained a warning label similar to the way cigarettes do today, that at the age of 22, 25, 27, she might not have even paid attention to them. But post breast cancer, she has a different warning for women.
[blockquote]”I would say to them [young women] that it comes down to choice.
Even if you have information that something could be harmful to your body doesn’t always mean that we will choose that path.
I think it’s tremendously important to be informed about what we are not only putting INTO our bodies but what we are putting ON our bodies. Not many people think about that.
I also think there’s a reason why manufacturers put makeup ingredients in microscopic writing behind a secret panel on the package. If they weren’t trying to hide something why would they try so hard to conceal it?
I love to wear lipstick and I love the makeup aisle but after becoming informed (by Red Apple and Jay’s Toxic make-up book) makeup doesn’t seem as appealing as it once was. I only wish I would have known about this sooner.
When I found out I had breast cancer my boys were 2 and 5 and I was terribly afraid that they may not have a mom. I was more sad by the thought of the loss to my family than of dying. I wasn’t afraid to die, but it was a wake-up call.
I felt like this was God’s way of telling me to slow down and stop worrying about the small stuff because what’s most important are the blessings right in front of you.”
Knowing what she knows now, Red Apple Lipstick is more than just a cosmetic company to Melissa. They are an eye-opener and now a trusted friend. She now looks carefully at the ingredients in her makeup, and she thinks other women should do the same to protect themselves from the ingredients lurking in their favorite beauty products.
“The government isn’t going to check [your makeup] for you,” says Harper. “People have the notion that if it’s on a shelf, it must be safe.”
Melissa knows that’s not the case.
“Since I’m a breast cancer survivor, I like that I can wear it, and now knowing what is in the other lipstick I think twice about using other products because I know what I’d be putting on,” she says. “It’s comforting to know that there is somebody who actually cares about the individual as a person versus just making money.”
Ten years later, Melissa’s cancer has not returned. Her beautiful feathers grew back over time, and she learned to fly again, and her lipstick is always paraben-free.
[style_box color=”#086dcb” title=”From Jay”]I would like to personally thank Melissa for sharing a peek with all of us into her life. I send her my blessings and my truest wish that her cancer never return. I am sure she would love to hear words of encouragement from you as well. You can send Melissa your encouragement and love through that little comment box just below.
Over the past weekend, I was having a conversation with a brilliant child psychologist.
She had just spoken at the local Houston gluten free chapter, and what she said, really struck me.
She was speaking on how difficult it is for young people to relate something they do now to something harmful or bad in the distant future.
The nature of the talk was in regards to compliance with a gluten free diet for teenagers, and how to help them understand that even if they have no outward symptoms now, the ramifications of non-compliance are still mounting within their bodies, and it might be another 20 years before the harm becomes apparent.
This really rang true with me, not only on the gluten front, but on the toxicity front as well.
Trying to tell a 17 year old young lady that her makeup, perfume, and lotions could eventually lead her body to help the growth of breast cancer cells is just as hard as trying to explain to a teenager the effects of smoking 20 years down the road. I can personally attest to that one.
I think Melissa’s story is an interesting sign post, and a quick peek into a young person’s breast cancer.
40 Years ago, breast cancer was something that only happened to older ladies, generally post menopausal.
But just this morning, I received a phone call from my mom, and she said “Jay, I just watched a report on the morning news that talked about how there are so many more cases of breast cancer in younger women today, and they have no idea what’s causing it.”
In the report that she told me about by USA Today, the report says that the trend started in the 1970’s, with even more rapid increases in the past 10 years.
Here’s a link to that http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/26/breast-cancers-young-women/1949157/
Well, I am positive I know what’s causing some of it.
Girls are more competitive than ever, and our society is growing larger. Keep in mind that smoking contributes to only 25% of cancer cases. What about the other 75%?
By the time a girl hits 17, she is loaded down with an amazing array of lotions, bronzers, toners, lipsticks, lipglosses, eye shadows (most packed with cheap talcum powder, and some talcum powder made overseas is even further cut and filled with asbestiforms), eye pencils, blushes, hair spray, fragrances, nice smelling shampoo and conditioners, shaving gels and other personal care products. Most of this, in the name of looking better than the girl next door, or to grab Billy’s attention, to stand out from the crowd… all a production of our “appearance based society.”
The TV is fluttered with ads of celebrities, and young adult magazines are smathered with airbrushed models, heavily laden in makeup.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the cosmetics industry is targeting young women, and cheap makeup is on the agenda to fit their small amount of disposable cash. But no one is warning them about the dangers hidden inside, and no one is watching how they are made.
She also drinks from plastic bottles and cups, potentially laced with BPA.
If she is 18 now, she was born in the paraben age. Her exposure probably started before birth. The mother’s body burden is baby’s body burden.
And as I type, sweat shops overseas are busily pumping out incredibly cheap makeup, and Madison Avenue is flush with cash…
… and breast cancer is more and more commonly found in young ladies, just like Melissa.