This month I introduce you to Sharon Baxter. I met through Sharon through social media. I follow her Instagram page and was inspired how Sharon’s journey led her to create a gorgeous all natural body scrub.
I asked Sharon what her shade of pink was and she replied “My shade of pink is Hot Pink. Which was also the main colour I used for our wedding. It’s a strong shade of pink and a bit ‘in your face’. But it’s also bright & beautiful and makes me feel happy, which is why I chose it for our wedding day”.
This is Sharon’s story.
My name is Sharon and I am 43 years old. I’m an English girl who now proudly calls Australia home. I moved to Perth in 2011 with my husband Craig and my son James. My husband and I both worked for the same company back in England and we had a great life with no complaints, but one day out of the blue Craig got a call from offering him the opportunity to come to live and work in Australia. I remember the day he put the suggestion to me. My first reaction was no way, they have HUGE spiders over there, but then I started thinking about it and we thought “hell, why not”. I had worked for the same company for quite a number of years in various management roles. I had taken a role on an internal transformation project as a Change Manager and this was coming to an end. I was given the opportunity of redundancy and the timing of making such a big move just seemed right.
In January 2012, I decided I needed to lose a bit of weight. The social aspect of Australia meant I was eating and drinking way too much and I piled on the kilos. In April I was turning 40, I saw a photo of me with a pint of cider in hand. I looked horrible and it spurred me into action. I didn’t want to be fat & forty! I spent the next year cleaning up my diet and learning to embrace exercise. I found myself entering a few triathlons and obstacle races thanks to my personal trainer at that time. I lost 17KG and I was so much happier with how I looked and felt, except that was for my breasts. As well as losing the weight I also lost my boobs, so I decided I was going to have them ‘done’. It took a while to persuade Craig as he was more than happy with how I looked, but after lots of discussion he agreed, and in May 2014 I went ahead with a breast augmentation.
After the operation, my surgeon instructed me to massage the breast tissue daily to ensure any scar tissue formed correctly so I got into a routine of doing this in the shower. So, every single day while washing my body I would massage my breasts in the same motion, so obviously I got to know what they felt like. One day about five months later I was doing the massage and I noticed what felt like a small lump on my right breast. At first I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it, so I didn’t say anything to anyone including my husband. This went on for about a week and then I resigned myself to the fact that something wasn’t right, so I told my husband and asked him to check to see if he could feel it, and of course he could. I booked a mammogram, which showed up the lump, and they booked me in the following day for a fine needle biopsy. At the biopsy, they told me they would have the results to my doctor in a few days so I made an appointment to see my GP on the following Friday, where I heard those dreaded words “you have breast cancer”.
From this point on it was all a whirlwind of appointments. My doctor had already tracked down a great breast cancer surgeon for me and made my first appointment with him for a few days later. Walking into that office for that appointment I had no idea on what lay ahead for me but I hoped and prayed that they would simply remove the lump and that would be the end of it. How wrong I was. An MRI showed that my cancer was invasive and it was also in two different areas of my breasts. This ruled out the lumpectomy, and instead my surgeon told me that a mastectomy was my only option, followed by either radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Straight away I said that I wanted an immediate reconstruction. I am not ashamed to admit how important my breasts were to me and there was no way I could live with only one breast. I know thousands of women do, but for me this was not an option. Little did I know that ‘immediate reconstruction’ actually meant ‘reconstruction that would take a good 8 months to complete!” Plus, further surgery later on to even things up (I still haven’t done this part).
We had a holiday booked to go away with friends for Christmas, which my surgeon agreed to. As I wanted to have an immediate reconstruction, it would take a little while to arrange as a plastic surgeon would do that part of the operation, so therefore he was willing to give me 4 weeks before I went into surgery for the mastectomy and reconstruction. At the time, I said I needed this 4 weeks to be able to come to terms with what was about to happen. I thought by the time the surgery day came I would be at peace, however this couldn’t have been further from the truth. I felt no different and I was devastated that I was going to lose my breast, however I was also strong in my determination to get through the treatment and that no way was cancer going to get the better of me.
On January 7th 2015 I had a skin sparing mastectomy and Latissimus Dorsi Flap reconstruction. I was on the operating table just over eight hours. Afterwards I stayed in hospital for nine days, but it was several days before I could bring myself to have a look at my chest. I had a steady stream of friends and family visit me and the nursing staff were all wonderful. That said, I couldn’t wait to get out of there and back in the privacy of my own home and the comfort of my own bed. Also, while in hospital, we got the results of my pathology. The good news was the cancer had not spread into my lymph system which was a huge relief. The not so good news was that my type of cancer turned out to be HER-2 positive. Score 3+. This meant that I now had to meet with an oncologist to talk about chemotherapy.
I saw the Oncologist in February and she explained that as I was HER-2 positive I would need to have 3 moths of weekly chemotherapy and one year of Herceptin infusions. This was a blow. First my boob, now my hair! It was slowly sinking in that my tussle with this beast was not going to be over anytime soon. Still, there was not much I could do to change it so I just had to get on with it. I was booked in to have an infusa port put in (which turned out to be the best thing I ever did), I got my eyebrows feather touch tattooed, and Craig & I went on a long weekend away to Melbourne.
My coping mechanism throughout the whole breast cancer experience was humor, a positive attitude and exercise. I am a big believer in choosing mindset. Cancer was happening whether I liked it or not so I just had to face it head on and deal with it. I was determined cancer would not defeat me. I lost my dad ten years ago to bowel cancer, but I had his voice in my head spurring me on. I cracked what were probably the most inappropriate jokes about my situation and they often left people a little at a loss for words, but it helped get me through. When it was all over we threw a party to celebrate and I had a cake made in the shape of a bottom that said “cancer can kiss my arse!”
The other thing that helped me cope was sharing my story each step of the way via a Facebook page (Sharon’s road to kicking breast cancer). This did several things for me. It gave me a channel to get everything out of my head and I have always enjoyed writing so it felt natural to do this but it was also a way of letting family and friends know what was happening without having to repeat a conversation fifty times. No offence but it gets exhausting and mentally draining having to re run every appointment and update so many times. But most importantly of all it was my way of sharing information about the whole “cancer thing’ with other people facing the same diagnosis. I said from the beginning if I can help just one other person then it’s worth it. As it goes, I have an inbox full of messages I got from people who found me online or were shown my page by others thanking me for sharing my story as it helped them. Even after a year of completing my treatment I still have people contacting me, and I will always try and offer help and support wherever I can.
I am happy to talk about my breast cancer experience with anyone who wants to listen. Cancer is unfortunately all too common these days and we are all touched by it in some way. Therefore, it baffles me why the subject is still so awkward for people. We should all be able to talk about it, the good the bad and the ugly. The more it’s discussed the less awkward it will become. I am quite passionate about this.
STAYING ON TOP…
I was also determined that cancer would not stop me exercising. I believed that staying fit would not only help me cope with the surgery and chemotherapy but also help my mental health. My chemo sessions were on a Friday afternoon and I saw my Personal Trainer religiously every Friday morning for a training session. Funny enough after I completed treatment I watched a documentary that talked about how exercise can help chemo do its job more effectively. #winning
It’s now just over a year since I finished all my treatment. My hair has grown back (curly), and when dressed and wearing the right bra you wouldn’t know that I have had a mastectomy. But cancer has left its mark on me. Physically I have some issues which I have to deal with. Most days I cope just fine, but every now and then I have a bit of a melt down and cry it out. But my pity parties never last long. I pick myself up and carry on getting on with it. I don’t say too much about it to anyone except my husband. I do feel truly blessed to be a survivor and I am well aware my outcome could be so much worse.
Within days of being given the diagnosis I decided that I wanted to eliminate as many chemicals from my life as was possible. I was, and always have been, keen on makeup and have always worn it. I went to my THREE make up bags and realized every single product was full of toxins, and I was putting these on my skin. I gave the whole lot away which in hindsight was a ridiculous thing to do as now someone else was using the same toxins that I was trying to avoid. I should have binned the lot! It was at this point that I started shopping for new replacement natural products that I found out how much green washing is out there. I learned that just because a product has the word ‘natural’ or ‘organic ingredients’ does NOT mean it is toxin free. It’s all marketing speak. We are being deceived by many manufacturers and misled by pretty packaging and the sales pitch! Marketing people are very clever and as consumers we get easily sucked in.
A BRAND IS BORN….
This definitely planted a seed in my head.
After being diagnosed, my approach to beauty products literally changed overnight. I needed a purpose and I knew it had to be something I was passionate about, so I decided that if I could not find products that were truly natural and free of toxins, I would start making my own. For a week or so, I sat in hospital surrounded by notebooks, post it notes and painkillers, and started to come up with some ideas and from this Buff & Polish Natural Body Scrubs was born.
I hand make a range of 100% natural salt, sugar and coffee scrubs aimed at both men and women and none of my products contain any artificial additives, chemicals or toxins.
My motto is “No toxins, no nasties, no need” and I will never compromise on this.
The business is now my full-time job (although I take breaks and time out whenever I want to, because I can!). I do everything myself from marketing, to mixing, to packaging, to book keeping. I am passionate about my brand and my goal is to be able to spread the word that beauty does not need to be toxic. Pop Up events, markets and networking allow me to have conversations with people and share the love. This year, I will be writing more on my own blog about living a less toxic lifestyle.
MY FAVOURITE SCRUB…
My favourite scrub depends on my mood. If I am feeling sluggish I love to use the Coffee & Peppermint scrub. This wakes me up and sets me up for the day. On a hot day, I love to use the Citrus Burst salt based scrub, which is really zesty and refreshing. I also have a soft spot for the Lime, Basil & Wild Orange as it is inspired by the perfume I wore on my wedding day so holds happy memories.
Starting my own brand played a big part in helping me get through the bumpy road of cancer, and also helped me to heal once all the treatment was done and dusted. Building the brand gave me a purpose and goals. It kept me busy and enabled me to focus on something else. It is hard to explain the emotions and long lasting physical effects that you experience when you go through such life changing surgery and treatment, but I was determined that my life would not just be about cancer. Obviously, this is easier said than done. Anyone who has been through it knows that it’s like one big endless appointment and there is always something happening. Chemo day, blood tests, bone scans, counselling, pre-surgery, post-surgery, anesthetists, stitch removal, wound checking. The list is endless and that’s how it felt. Cancer patients should be given their own named parking space at the hospital we are there so much!!
I am not sure I can pick a single moment. Every time I have an achievement I feel insanely proud. Every new online sale, every new wholesale order, every new enquiry, every new email asking me to collaborate, every Instagram post I am tagged in are just some of the highlights. I am proud as punch at what I have created and each and every single one of these occasions. However, one stand out moment was when I was watching one of my favorite Beauty Bloggers on You Tube. She was doing a rundown of her favorite products, and there she was holding up my Strawberry & Lime Brown Sugar Scrub and raving about it. I had no idea she was going to do it so stumbling upon it made my day.
CHECK ME OUT….
The Buff & Polish Body Scrub range is made up of six body scrub scents and a foot scrub, and all are targeted at both men and women. All of them contain just enough nourishing coconut oil to leave your skin beautifully hydrated but never greasy. They are all scented using only the highest quality pure essential oils. There are salt based scrubs, sugar based scrubs and coffee based scrubs so something for everyone. They come in 100g and 250g clear pouches and 250g clear tubs. Later in 2017 we have a couple of exciting NEW products launching which I can’t wait to share. My Instagram page will be the place I will reveal all. You can follow me @buff_and_polish
If you live in Western Australia you’ll be able to come and say hello and see the range at various Pop-Up events in Perth. I always add an event on my Facebook page with all the details of these.
The all natural body scrubs as created by Sharon.
The beautiful Founder behind the gorgeous brand Buff & Polish