KAYDIA McKoy was just not confident going out in public after losing her hair to chemotherapy last year, during her breast cancer journey.
But when the 32-year-old was gifted two wigs, she regained her strength to be optimistic as she continued her fight with the deadly disease.
She decided to help other young women who shared the same fate, by donating wigs through her burgeoning breast cancer support foundation, Heads up for Pink.
“I lost all my hair and I wore a head scarf. Even when I went to bed, I would cover my head because I didn't want my husband to see me like that and I wouldn't go in public with the bald head. It would be normal to wear my jeans, a little top and my head scarf when I went to chemotherapy because I wasn't motivated to dress up,” she told All Woman.
“But when I got the first wig as a gift [in October 2020], I didn't think I could look so elegant. Then I got another wig as a gift [in November 2020] — every day I started to get up, dress up and go out and then I said I wanted to donate wigs for Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” she said.
“I wore those wigs so well that people who didn't usually wear wigs wanted wigs too…I felt motivated. It helped to shield what I was going through; I was just looking in the mirror and seeing the bald head from chemotherapy that reminded me I was sick. I was encouraged by other young women to start something… it's like they are depending on me to speak up.”
The foundation, she said, was designed for breast cancer survivors under 45 to detail their experiences, while gaining mental, physical, emotional and financial support in order to develop resilience.
“When my breast cancer journey started in 2020 I searched for young women my age who were fighters/survivors...because I wanted someone who could relate and understand on my level as young woman. There weren't any platforms as most of the groups and foundations were mostly older women...I was told the young women were too afraid and shy to speak up. Since then I realised that something needed to be done. I needed to form a foundation, I needed a YouTube channel where young women can share their stories so it could bring awareness to other young women…”
McKoy was determined to make a change.
“Young women [with breast cancer] are normally not bold. They don't want to talk about it, so they are more reserved. It was different for me, I wanted to bring awareness, I was willing to share my experience, share the journey, and people would say, 'You're so bold, so brave you're an inspiration to others'. The truth is, I think I know what it feels like because I wasn't aware of the cancer. If I felt the lump earlier maybe things would have been different. I feel like I needed to speak up. I've been encouraged to be that voice for other young women,” she said, noting that she has six breast cancer survivors committed for her foundation so far.
Already, McKoy has donated four wigs and a few head scarves through her foundation.
“It's about alertness with the boobies, sharing stories and aiding support mentally, physically, emotionally, and sometimes financially...I'm seeking young adults to come on board with me, to start a team — a strong, vibrant energetic team.
“Whenever I hear someone going through something like this it breaks my heart because I know what it feels like, so I'll try to help in any way I can,” she said.
McKoy completed treatments three months ago, but is on chemo pills every day for 10 years.
She endured 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and she did an oophorectomy, hysterectomy, nipple-sparing mastectomy and reconstructive surgery last year.
She then did radiation treatment in June.
“You have to deal with the side effects from treatment — both the mental and physical parts of it. With the mental scare, every time you go to do a follow-up, you get a nervous feeling and you wonder if it's coming back. It's like I'm a baby again and I'm learning and trying to understand my body,” she said.
“The pills give me a cushion mentally, so if anything is growing it will stop or shrink whatever is there. My problem is what will happen after I've to stopped taking them after 10 years,” she said.
But against all odds, McKoy refuses to be defeated by breast cancer, and is encouraging other survivors to maintain a strong fighting spirit.
“Get up each day and try your best to survive because life is beautiful. When you feel like giving up, that's when your body fails you. Your mind is so powerful and it controls your body. Think positive and remain with a positive attitude. Even when you feel like it's the end, keep going...you can do it,” she said.