I met Laura Hathaway backstage at the NPC New England’s in November 2014, 51 weeks after my last radiation treatment. She was just beautiful, and we started talking as she was helping girls backstage with their spray tans and make up. I had this immediate connection to her, as my insecurities of my short hair and scars and the disfigurement caused by my mastectomy were a big part of my thoughts. Laura was so kind. I thought because of her beauty (and just the competitive world of figure competition) that she would be threatening and have this “I’m better than you” attitude. No way, she couldn’t have been more the contrary. She was so kind. My soul felt a strong, inner connection with Laura but I wasn’t sure why.
Laura helped me with some minor make up adjustments, and I shared with her why I was competing and insecure as my bikini top was different that all the other girls – due the fact I wanted to hide the flaws of my mastectomy. I was back stage for some time alone, as my trainer had another client competing that day and Bobby wasn’t coming until the night awards. It was hard to stay focused on my own victory and not feel that competitive edge as many of the girls had these perfect breasts – implants that matched their bodies perfectly or even more so, had that “eye candy” effect on the crowd. I was so glad Laura and I started to talk. Without Laura, I don’t think I would have been able to focus on the now, the competition, what I was there to do.
After the competition, I didn’t have an expectation that Laura and I would really speak or see each other again, unless we met at another competition. There is always Facebook posts, likes of life events, etc to stay connected. Still, I truly felt that Laura and I had a connection and my soul was not going to rest until I figured out why I was drawn to this woman’s story.
Laura has a condition called Alopecia. According to Webmd.com, “Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles , which is where hair growth begins. The damage to the follicle is usually not permanent. Experts do not know why the immune system attacks the follicles. Alopecia areata is most common in people younger than 20, but children and adults of any age may be affected. Women and men are affected equally.” I had no idea that this beautiful, kind strong woman had any insecurities. Life has a way to shake us up as trauma had existed in both of our lives. I believe that my cancer returned due to severe anxiety and stress, and I thought about Laura’s anxiety and stress. Did all the internal emotions cause her Alopecia as well? It is easy to be strong on the outside, especially when you dedicate so much time to the gym. But seriously, who really takes the time to understand what someone has to give from the inside?
Laura and I starting chatting and soon built a great friendship as we would share our stories, strengths and weaknesses through FB messenger. Privately between ourselves – two strong women who have been through a ton of adversity. I was just amazed that my story helped Laura with hers and she began to start to live life without her wig. No one can truly understand this as a woman unless they have lived it. Laura hid her pain so well, but as I told her, losing my hair through chemotherapy and fighting the fight a second time helped me realize that there was a purpose for all this. I taught Laura my words, “It’s a journey to the bottom of your soul.”
I still struggle with a level of confidence within what is perceived as physical beauty. But, Laura helped me see it from another angle, and although I would tell others “beauty comes from your eyes, they are the windows to our soul”, Laura helped me see that from the outside looking in.
People come in and out of our lives for a reason. Life experiences teach us to grow and make changes where we have weaknesses. Thank you Laura Hathaway for giving me the courage to be me.