I was already living an active and plant-based lifestyle when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 32. My breast cancer experience (including IVF egg freezing, two rounds of chemotherapy, and a month of daily radiation) taught me that it takes more than green juice and pilates class to be in top shape. What we put in and on our bodies – from food to social media content to tampons – has an impact on our overall wellness.
This is why I founded aalva, the first organic feminine care brand of its kind. Built on the Swedish principles of quality, sustainability and innovative design, aalva is created for women to have access to feminine care that truly cares for us.
xx Marley Kaplan
Founder & CEO, aalva
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Breast cancer diagnosis to female founder: Turning lemons into lemonade
Sometimes gratitude arises when you have something taken away and then get it back – in this case, my menstrual cycle. I am now more grateful than ever—grateful for my overall health and energy to live a normal day-to-day life, in addition to female hormones and the opportunity to live a natural, chemical-free life post-treatment.
For some, cancer treatment means they will have to sit out on their children’s soccer games and gymnastics meets. For others, they will have to cancel the triathlon they have been preparing for years in advance. For myself, as a 32-year-old single American woman living her dream in the beautiful European city of Stockholm it would mean re-assessing what “living the dream” really means. I believe we all have a core soul/personality/disposition – however one might name it – that we are born with and develop over time.
Cancer treatment doesn’t take the loving essence out of the parent, nor the fire out of the triathlete; it didn’t take the dreamer out of me either. Now that I am one-year post treatment and have been deemed as cancer-free by the doctors in my first follow-up appointment, I have been channeling my regained my mental energy into aalva: a company I founded to share my experience and create a feminine care company that women deserve.
A few weeks into chemotherapy treatment I lost my womanhood – both physically and hormonally. I had to prepare myself for the possibility of never getting my menstrual cycle back – impacting the chance of ever becoming pregnant in the future, if I so wanted. But, what started unfolding next, was the lemons to my lemonade; I regained my period. This triggered feelings of strong appreciation and gratitude, and I’ve never been this excited for the different seasons of my female body. My cup was overflowing with self-love, thankfulness, and hope.
I started reimagining feminine care that inspires women to feel empowered by their femininity and cherish their menstrual cycle, as I do now. While there is no rule book on how to live post-treatment, I believe it’s important to always look for the silver lining and turn life’s lemons into lemonade. While on this journey, I uncovered a deep sense of gratefulness and was determined to propel it to empower and help other women. I hope to inspire others to turn their lemons into lemonade, the same way the gratitude I developed throughout my cancer journey.
Tips for discovering your inner strength during cancer treatment
- Write your own “lemons to lemonade story.” It’s your choice, you control the narrative.
- Practice self-awareness. Get to know your skills, talents, aspirations, weaknesses and limits.
- Invest time in yourself daily. Whether you decide to sit down and journal or go on a walk; prioritize time in your day to nourish your mind and soul.