This is the seventh profile in our Society Nine Storytellers series where badass women in our community share their definitions of femininity, strength and empowerment and discuss what they fight for.
If you would like to send a Pretty Package to someone you love, or make a donation to Fighting Pretty, please visit www.fightingpretty.org
Have a story to tell? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – tell us who you are, a little bit about your journey and what you fight for – in life and sport.
In high school, my varsity softball coach always said, “she looks like a girl, but plays like a boy.” And in college, I was the starting winger for our women’s rugby team, and even won Rookie of the Year – all the while painting my nails and curling my hair before rugby matches. I was pretty tough and always up for the fight.
But it wasn’t until I was 26 years old, working in New York City at a global advertising agency, where my true fight began. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, only one week into a new relationship with a cute guy from my office named Nate Dolce.
I immediately thought, “why me!?” and was faced with decisions and situations that no 26-year-old should have to bear. I went on to have chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, radiation and more. Facing breast cancer at such a young age was a true test of strength. I fought like mad. I embraced what was happening to me and took each situation by storm. I lost my breasts, I lost my hair and felt that I lost a bit of my identity.
So I embraced what was happening to me, and I ROCKED it. I wore blonde, brunette, short and long wigs; I wore bright lipstick, big earrings, backless shirts and high heels – all through my cancer journey.
While going through treatment, my best friend’s mom – also a survivor – sent me a pair of mini-pink boxing gloves as a symbol to stay strong and never give up. I hung them on my bedpost and looked at them every day. And even when my treatment was completed, and my hair was growing in, I looked at them to remind myself I was still me, I was still beautiful, and I was a true fighter. About one year later, a family friend was diagnosed with cancer and I knew she needed strength. I sent her my mini-pink boxing gloves and she used them for her fight. She is winning her fight and full of strength. And she has passed them on too; the original mini-pink boxing gloves are on to the fifth woman battling cancer.
Battling cancer gave a whole new meaning for what life was about. Ironically, I gained the confidence in myself I never had before. I smiled more, I walked with purpose and I loved myself more. I was worth fighting for. As I attended support groups, and talked with friends and family during my “battle,” they would ask how I stayed so positive, and how I looked so great. My answer was…’You tell yourself you are strong enough to get through this, and you will be. There’s no other option. Never give up.’
After I was roughly four years out of cancer treatment, I knew I needed to share my strength with others. I founded a 501c(3) non-profit organization called Fighting Pretty where our mission is to help women battling cancer feel strong and beautiful during and after cancer treatment. This was something that was close to my heart, and something not many cancer organizations were doing for women battling cancer. It is so important to support research and find a cure. But what do we do for the women currently in their battle?
I decided to create care packages known as “Pretty Packages” that I could send to women battling all types of cancer, all over the world. Each Pretty Package would include items such as lipstick, eye shadow, a scarf, nail polish and our iconic mini-pink boxing gloves – as a symbol of strength. To date, I have sent over 1,000 Pretty Packages to over 46 states and seven countries globally.
In early 2014, I moved across the country with my now husband, Nate, to Portland, Oregon and continue to build the Fighting Pretty organization with the help of volunteers and supporters all over the country.
After looking back on all that I have gone through, and asking the higher power to answer “why me?”, I now know I am here to help women get through their battle with cancer, with some extra strength and bit of beauty.
I am Kara Dolce. I am fighter. And I am Fighting Pretty.
Kara Dolce’s motto is “In the end, only kindness matters” – a quote you will find in her high school yearbook. After her own battle with breast cancer, Kara started her own non-profit, Fighting Pretty, where she helps women battling cancer feel strong and beautiful during and after cancer treatment. With an extensive background in marketing in addition to her personal experience with cancer, Kara has been asked to be on the Board of Directors for the American Cancer Society in Manhattan and Portland. Now, Kara is cancer free, and finds her strength from family, great friends and natural inspiration and enjoys working out, and taking hikes through Forrest Park with her husband Nate, and dog Archie.
Photos by Kara Dolce