Updated: Nov 6, 2020
I'm obsessed with dining out... This is already apparent to those who know or follow me. Fat Rice and The Ladies' Room have been on my list for quite a while. Fat Rice is one of Chicago's hottest spots serving food inspired by the Portuguese speaking Luso-Asian provinces, with an emphasis on Macau, China.
The Ladies' Room is their intimate, sexy speakeasy serving house-made infusions, creative cocktails, and rare wines. The walls are papered with beautiful, vintage images of women (from the Chinese gambling halls and Macau’s red light district I'm told). I was able to visit both in December and now they are on my Best of Chicago list (see the Spirits, Sweets, and Eats section).
Something else I am obsessed with is women's health. Cancer has impacted family and loved ones my entire life. This year I decided to do a "mash-up" of my passions. The team at Fat Rice was so very gracious to allow me to have a photography shoot and interview with a person who truly inspires me.
Allison Maxwell (Alli) is always smiling has a look of wonderment in her eyes each time I see her. For someone so young and full of life it is difficult to image the struggles she has endured with breast cancer.
Name: Allison Maxwell - Alli :)
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Age at diagnosis: 26 years old
Breast CA free for: 6 years
How did you find out you had Breast Cancer?
While growing up, I had two aunts pass away from breast cancer. As a result, I was very diligent about doing monthly breast self-exams. I felt a lump and went to the doctor. Originally doctors thought it was just a fibroid due to my age yet they decided to test for cancer "just in case". After an ultrasound and mammogram, I got a call with the diagnosis: "its cancer". Scary news for anyone, especially at 26; thankfully, I had an early, non-aggressive form of the disease. I had a double mastectomy and treatment medicine for 5 years.
What aspect of the diagnosis and treatment process surprised you the most?
The emotional and psychological impact. I was so positive and full of joy and faith during the surgery process, which I thought would be the toughest, scariest part. I had so many appointments - I busied myself with getting through each milestone. I was totally unprepared for the emotional and mental toll cancer had on me. I had a double mastectomy, so
losing my breasts at such a young age impacted my self-image and confidence. I would cry every time I looked in the mirror and did not feel beautiful anymore. In addition, I did not know anyone diagnosed so young and I did not have a reason why this thing invaded my body because I tested negative for all genetic mutations. I developed terrible anxiety and dealt with depression. I blamed myself - Did I not eat right enough? Workout enough? I was paranoid that it would return and obsessed/panicked over sickness and something attacking my body.
What advice do you have for newly diagnosed women and men?
KEEP A POSITIVE MINDSET. Your body will respond to your joy and attitude! Reach out to survivors to ask the really “real” questions and get support.
Get second opinions - and pick the doctor and treatment best
for you.Ask a lot of questions but stay off WedMD and other internet sites. They can be toxic and send your mind wondering.
Write: Keep a journal of your experience and feelings.Be honest with your loved ones about what you need and don't need.
KEEP A POSITIVE MINDSET - can't say it enough! Protect your energy and keep positive people around you!
How has being a Breast Cancer survivor changed your life?
I am a totally different person - for the better! I have a renewed sense of purpose and JOY. I know firsthand how fragile this life truly is. I count my blessings more and don't sweat the small stuff. Cancer taught me so much about my faith in God, how strong I am, and gave me confidence in the woman I am, now. I had to let go of the pre-2011 Alli and embrace my new self. I truly love and value her more than ever before!
What does the next chapter of your life look like?
I started a new endeavor recently - BoldPurpose - with my business partner, Kalika who is an alopecia advocate after losing all of her hair at the age of 12. Bold Purpose is a women's lifestyle brand with one mission: create a movement of bold and confident women living in authentic purpose. We want to use our experiences to create a community where women feel confident sharing, learning, celebrating, and building with each other. We focus on self-acceptance and sisterhood through our events and boldly challenge societal standards of what it means to be a woman.
Please be your own health advocate. Take your health serious, no matter your age! Health must be your priority - without it, you can't do or be anything. There isn't anything money, power or popularity can do to save you from cancer. Ladies, please perform self-exams! Feel your boobs! Know your body and what's normal and abnormal for you! I started Pink4Purpose, Inc. to empower and educate women to take control of their breast health. I look forward to seeing how it grows and the impact we can have in the community.
Follow Alli’s endeavors using the social media accounts below and be sure to book your reservations at Fat Rice and The Ladies’ Room. IG/FB info: IG - @Luvallimax and @BoldPurpose / FB: AlliMax