If you've been following along you know that I have been working on holistic care (not only doing skincare, and like, nothing else.) I've also been working on reconnecting with the parts of skincare that make it so important to my personal habits. I was 29 and one day when I discovered the lump in my breast. THE lump, which I would find out a week later was breast cancer. That was 6 years (and more therapies than I care to list here) ago.

It’s still terrifying to most people when the following words drop from my plump, perennially chapped lips: “I have Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer.” Go on, look back at the picture of me. That was taken in the last couple of months. That is actually what I look like.

For so long I took my skin for granted - not only that it was relatively calm and youthful, but also that it was the armor I clad myself in to face the world every day. The largest organ in our body. The spider’s web miracle of humanity that traps the good things inside and keeps the bad things out.

Having cancer changed how I felt about myself irreparably for the better. I could no longer take anything for granted.
Here is a day in my life:

Every morning I wake up nauseated. It’s just one of the tradeoffs. I try really hard to make the choice to forgive my body for reacting to the poison I put in it to keep me alive.

On a good day, I head for the bathroom. On a bad day, I reach for the bottle of micellar water by my bed. Then I gently soak a super soft cotton pad with the softly scented liquid inside. I have a deep and abiding love for the Shiseido pads, they feel like little bouncy pillows of silky perfection. They are a bit of a splurge but I tell myself that it’s OK, because I’m worth it.

When I place the bottle back on my nightstand I stop and enjoy the way the light catches the bubbles in that big, pink-topped french word covered bottle. So chic. Then I gently stroke my face, starting from the inside and working up and out to get the lymphatic drainage vibes going.  Then I take a few drops of the sublime Serum C from my personal angel Melanie Simon’s eponymous line, and I as the silky serum meets my fingertips (or makeup drop if I remember, got to conserve the liquid gold!) and I spread it lovingly onto my face. I think about how lucky I am, the softness of my skin as it rustles against the softness of my linen sheets. I drench myself in that feeling of being so grateful, and as the serum glazes, I seal in that intention.

On many days, I will do a quick Ziip, relishing the way the hefty device feels perfectly balanced in my palm as it glides over the sweet, sticky rich serum. I love the way I can feel the device humming down to my bones, even the quick snap of a caught blemish or pigment spot, almost as much as a relish the glowing, freckled visage that greets me when I finally see myself in a reflective surface. On a bad day I will cocktail every program, massaging and laying and Netflix gorging until I find that same joy. It might take longer, but it’s never left me forever.  

After I lighty splash my face with water to rinse off extra Ziip serum, and then melt a few drops of leo oil onto my face and start my day.

Everyone who knows me well knows you don’t want to talk to Dena until she’s massaged her face for at least five minutes. It’s how I go from sickened to signature Dena. Signature Dena is grateful, joyful, and hilariously ridiculous. I refuse to refer to myself as extra, because that’s a gum.

Then I reach for my adorable bottle of Ritual vitamins. Everything on my bedside table is cultivated to bring me joy in every aspect of the experience - packaging, smell, taste, texture, feel on my skin. I do not settle. I swear the minty flavor of the vitamins helps to calm my tummy. People keep asking me if they work. How can one tell if a vitamin is working? No seriously, respond in comments below.

If I don’t feel better I go back to bed - to read, write, research, design, respond to messages, take about 45k pictures of my rescue puppies Bit (a 7.5 pound terrier mix) and Fenway (the boxer) and make sure that I express gratitude that I am lucky enough on those days to be able to nourish my self in this way that I need.

On a good day, I will do a wall squat and a plank and head on with my day.

Beauty blogging may not be on par with developing a cure for the cancer that I still have (big  thanks to those of you out there who are. This seems like the kind of community you would be a part of!) But it is a world filled with incredible women who are changing the way people feel about themselves every single day.

“Beauty” feels like both the perfect word, and also so loaded down with it’s own set of wondrous and treacherous connotations as to be burdensome. I can find beauty in an empty kombucha bottle with a reusable straw in it, but finding beauty in everything does nothing except make me feel good. To me, with my little blog, and my amazing community, it is a place where my love of chemistry, physiology, learning, design, soft things, touching my face, not feeling like I need to look a certain way to be beautiful and gratitude collide in a magical alchemy unlike anything else.

I love the world of beauty because almost all of it can be “done” from the place of a gorgeously spoiled convalescent, in bed, prone, with a glass of water and some bone broth by my side. It is a place where I do not feel excluded because my energy reserve or my immune system has trapped me at home on a Saturday night, when it feels like everyone else in the world is going out. It’s no longer a place of FOMO. We are at home, together, probably masking, messaging each other words of encouragement, most likely in a bath-tub surrounded by the carcasses of luxurious candles repurposed to hold the wonders of science and magic we can now ourselves possess. If being a witch it trendy, I will hex you if you mess with my potions. But of course, I know in my everloving soul that I  would never have survived the last 6 years of battling cancer without those products, or those people, or this mindset.

My mother taught me that you cannot choose the things that life is going to throw your way, just how you react to them. My cancer taught me that I do not need the things I thought I needed. My heart taught me the importance of gratitude. The internet taught me that jealousy is just counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.