Broward College Alum Uses Experience as Breast Cancer Survivor to Help Others
Broward College alumna Aniela McGuinness was diagnosed with breast cancer a year-and-a-half after losing her mother to ovarian cancer in 2014. Instead of shutting herself out from the outside world, she decided to take a different approach. She made her journey public through her My Breast Choice lifestyle blog.
McGuinness chronicled every step of the way in writing, producing videos and sharing on social media. She quickly saw she was not alone. By the same token, viewers and readers who were in a similar situation gained comfort knowing they weren’t going solo either.
Her double mastectomy photo series went viral around the world. Thousands tuned in regularly for uplifting and entertaining YouTube updates and posts. McGuinness, who went on to study technical theater at Florida State University, found having the creative outlet was freeing and therapeutic.
She wanted to show people that they can deal with hardships in life with a positive attitude, and it is okay to laugh every once in a while when adversity rears its ugly head.
“I want them to leave with the awareness that it could happen to them, but without the fear mongering. I’m not into the whole ‘let me scare the crap out of you.’ I want people to know they can find joy by looking at situations differently,” she said.
This idea sparked the Cancer Grad, another online endeavor started two months ago with Nora McMahon, an ovarian cancer survivor, or in their terminology, a fellow “Class of 2015 Graduate.” The site includes tips and other informative content that is easily accessible, and once again, brings a sense of humor to the subject rather than taking on a sad tone. McGuinness’ mentality is there are enough horror stories online.
“Being able to laugh takes some of the power away from this idea that cancer is this menacing thing,” McGuinness said. “If you can laugh about it, then it doesn’t have as much power over you.”
McGuinness has dedicated much of her time to helping others with the idea that art is a method of healing. The Cancer Grad also focuses on the point when you have finished the surgeries, chemo and are beginning the next phase of your life. She likens it to graduating college where you have the feeling of happiness and accomplishment, but then now what? For McGuinness, there is a lost feeling when you are finished with cancer that isn’t always talked about. The Cancer Grad helps fill this void.
McGuinness will be speaking on Wednesday, October 12 at noon in Building 17, Room 425 at Central Campus. Missed it? Watch it here. For more information, call 954-201-6328.