Editors note: This article was one of a select few chosen for the inaugural print edition of Unconditionally Her which debuted at SURVIVORville 2017. The Women Survivors Alliance thanks Jean Criss for her willingness to share her personal cancer journey, for her long-time contributions to the former NOU magazine, and for her future contributions to Unconditionally Her. Jean, you inspire us!
I realize when I glance back at my past ten years of survivorship; I am happy, alive and built to survive. This statement really sums it up! While I’ve been through a lot, many say, how did you do it?
I think back and don’t really know how I survived,
- I am grateful that I had a shining light over me each and every time I recovered and woke up from the OR room and was able to return to my children and my work after weekend surgeries.
- I was able to take matters into my own hands and know when to diagnose early breast problems and be able to call upon the “breast” Top Docs for help in no time at all.
- I am lucky to recover from contagious infectious disease (MRSA) and multiple surgeries when the word “hope” was nowhere to be found.
- The thing is, I pulled through time and time again. I felt energized and just kept going like the real “energizer bunny.”
- I persevered with stamina and resilience, perseverance, and passion to pursue happiness.
- I joined Susan G. Komen as a volunteer and then became a board of trustee. I got enthralled in the organization, helped fundraise millions of dollars, create media campaigns, and co-chair gala events while educating myself with their market research and recovering from breast cancer.
- I overcame adversity from the dark days of depression, anxiety and disappointment from breast cancer, complications, and being treated indifferently post-cancer.
- I pushed thru each horrific procedure…. needle biopsies, bi-lateral lumpectomy, radiation, bi-lateral mastectomy with skin and nipple-sparing reconstructive surgery.
- I managed to conquer surviving reconstructive surgery four times within eighteen months, unheard of, as an Allergan Natrelle® Style 410 research patient.
- I remodeled my home while recovering from double mastectomy – call me crazy or passing the lonely ‘pink’ time by keeping my body, mind and soul busy.
- I survived breast cellulitis three times and MRSA once, all serious infectious diseases.
- I endured other complications and rose above it all and moved on.
- I put my life in order simultaneously while surviving cancer – with divorce, life, family and career changes.
- I documented my medical journey and penned my first book in a story called BLISS! Because I was truly happy to find the pursuit of happiness, post-cancer and post-divorce.
- I had the best sex ever, post-cancer and well, yes, post-divorce! The ta-tas didn’t matter!
- I learned how to pay it forward by living my dreams as a media-preneur and author.
- I invented new ways for patients to feel confident and look beautiful to recover in style and comfort now as a fashion designer of crisscrossintimates.com.
- I went crazy again and designed a full line of post-surgical undergarments, over 20 designs in total and got them approved by the USPTO.
- Then I became a new brand and established myself in a niche marketplace in the fashion world of intimate apparel while recovering from breast cancer.
- I put my ideas into PLAY and built upon my survivorship with ideation, design, strategy, branding, sourcing and so on.
- I went into manufacturing, production, distribution, sales, marketing with this idea to create unique luxury breast undergarments for women, and yes, for men too.
- I recently introduced over 150 SKUs on our e-commerce site with bold, beautiful color garments to enrich the lives of survivors and provide them with revolutionary designs and an intimate experience using emerging textiles that provide advanced healing solutions.
- It truly became my dream come true.
- I drew upon my vast knowledge in media and tech to bring the best-of-best in class products to the market for the benefit of future survivors
I made this happen because “I am happy, alive and was built to survive!”
All images have been provided by Jean Criss.