Melissa Berry

Age || 47

Company Name || Cancer Fashionista

Job Title || Founder

Company Start Date || 2015


Social Handles: @cancerfashionista, FB

Company Website: Cancer Fashionista

What did you want to be while growing up?

I’ve always loved fashion and my dream was to become a fashion designer.

How did Cancer Fashionista come to be?

I’m a fashion and beauty publicist, so when I was diagnosed and learned that I was going to lose my hair I thought, how am I going to look normal? I didn’t need to look like a supermodel, I just wanted to look like myself. I scoured the internet for fashion and beauty tips for cancer patients and nothing was all in one place. I thought, where is the Vogue of breast cancer? But it didn’t exist. I ended up curating a list of products, experts and resources for myself. Slowly my friends and family heard about “my list,” and I ended up sharing it very organically. Eventually a friend of mine suggested I put everything in a blog. And Cancer Fashionista was born!

What’s the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting Cancer Fashionista?

To be authentic, to be myself. To be a friend or a sister to my fellow thrivers. This comes easy to me because I truly love all of the women whom I’ve met throughout my journey. They’re all incredible.

What are you goals for women who visit Cancer Fashionista?

My goal is for them to never feel alone. I also want them to feel pretty, even sexy...when they’re feeling bad. I’m not saving lives, but I know first hand that looking better just makes you feel better when you’re going through treatment. Being connected to a community of women who are going through something similar, coupled with self-care and self-love has been a formula of success for many.

How do you define success?

To me success is doing something that you love that has a positive impact on others. This is why I love what I do.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting out?

I’ve recently learned a really great lesson. The information that I share is truly being heard and utilized. For example, I recently moderated a panel discussion for the AiRs Foundation which helps women who can’t afford breast reconstruction. I posted some photos from the event with a link to the Foundation, and just a couple of weeks later I received a message from a woman in Nashville. She thanked me for sharing the information about AiRs because she received a grant from them for her breast reconstruction. Honestly this made me cry with happiness and reminded me why I’m doing what I do in the first place.

What is your go-to motivational quote?

I love this one from Marilyn Monroe: “Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius. And it’s it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Do you have a personal motto?

I always find myself saying that my time is my inventory, both in my personal and professional lives. Once you’ve gone through something like cancer, it forces you to see how precious time really is and how important it is to spend it wisely.

Which women inspire you?

My mother. She’s strong and sweet. Almost impossible to have those qualities wrapped up in one person.


How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?

I call my mother! She has a way of shifting my perspective no matter what I’m going through.

What advice would you give to people who are facing a cancer diagnosis? To take baby steps. Don’t think too far into the future and worry about surgeries and treatments. It just doesn’t do you any good. Try to enjoy the days that you feel ok. And the days that you are sick...embrace those too! Stay tucked into your bed, watch some great movies. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to work or take care of your family. It’s just too easy to do that.

How can people help those close to them who are dealing with cancer?

Don’t ask them what they need. Just offer to help. Sending gift cards to local restaurants that deliver are the best! If they have a dog, offer to take it for a walk. Maybe they need help with laundry or errands. Those little things can be super helpful.

What is the hardest part about being your own boss?

I’m harder on myself than anyone, but it’s only because I feel such a responsibility to serve my community.

How do you handle situations where you feel overwhelmed?

I try to meditate as much as possible. If I’m not home or I’m in my car and can’t meditate, I find just taking a few really deep breaths helps a lot. I also have an incredible circle of friends and colleagues who are usually only a phone call or a text away.

What has been the most rewarding thing since starting Cancer Fashionista?

Seeing the positive impact that I’ve had on women. My community inspires me so much, every single day.

What advice would you give to other women creating similar platforms?

If your mission is to help others, you cannot fail.

What are some of your goals moving forward for Cancer Fashionista?

I just began to offer corporate workshops. I’m incredibly excited about them. They’re designed to educate women about breast cancer, so they will be better equipped to handle a diagnosis for themselves or a loved one. Knowledge is power!

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Sarah Fielding