Georgia mom kicks off cancer fight with a party

- Emily Chandler-Westergreen kicked off 2017 with a party she never expected to host, to kick off a journey the Newnan, Georgia 36-year old never expected to take.

"So, I thought, 'Why don't we throw a New Year's Day party and I'll chop of my hair into a short, fun pixie cut," something I probably never would have done," Chandler-Westergreen says.

Yet, to understand why a pixie warrants a party, you have to go back to October, to the beginning.

Chandler-Westergreen, who runs her own online fashion business, Underground Runway, was raising her 5 year old daughter Olivia with her husband Todd, when she decided to undergo breast reduction surgery.  

So, she found a good surgeon. 

"He said, "Go get this baseline mammogram.'" she remembers.  "I never even thought twice about it.  I just did, because that's what he said."

Emily has no family history of breast cancer.  

At 36, she was still 4 years away from her first recommended baseline mammogram.

"It was extremely lucky I scheduled that procedure," Chandler-Westergreen says. "Or, there is not reason I would ever have gotten a mammogram."

That mammogram revealed three tumors.  

Out of the blue, Emily found herself facing stage 2, HER2+ breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.

Her husband Todd says they were stunned, but Emily quickly regrouped.

"Every since we found out about it, she's really taken control," he says.  "We've visitied three different teams of specialists from every hospital around Atlanta and Newnan."

Emily would need a double mastectomy.  

But first, she needed months of chemotherapy to shrink the tumors.

"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh.  I am going to lose my hair,'" she says.  "That was my first thought."

But, once the shock wore off, Chandler-Westergreen says she realized hair is just hair.

"It's not worth it," she says.  "I have a lot of battles I'll be fighting, and the battle for hair is not going to be one of them."

So, on New Year's Day, three days before starting chemotherapy, Chandler-Westergreen threw a hair-cutting party.

"We had about 50 people come to the party," she says. 

Emily's friend Julia, a stylist, did the honors, cutting her shoulder length brown hair into a pixie as friends and family watched.

"When she started doing it, I could see people were getting emotional," Chandler-Westergreen says. "I got a little choked up about it."

But she wanted Olivia, who is still in preschool, to see her taking on cancer on her terms.

"I've talked to her a lot about it and tried to make it seem not so scary," Chandler-Westergreen says.  "Like, "This is what's going to happen.  I am not going to feel good for a little while. My hair will come out, but we can have a lot of fun with wigs.'"

Chandler-Westergreen has never had short hair. 

"I really like it," she says.  "I never would have thought to cut it this short. I never would have thought I could pull it off this short."

January 4th, she had her first chemo treatment, receiving a combination of four medications.

She knows hair loss is part of the process.

"We'll see, I mean I may feel differently when it starts to fall out," she says. "But, my hair isn't my identity. And, I'll be the same person with or without it."

Emily Chandler-Westergreen has chosen to rock the cut, and cancer.

NEXT ARTICLE: How Monday resolutions can help you beat the odds

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