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Early Detection Saved My Life. I'm A Breast Cancer Survivor.

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New York based Fashion Designer Melanie Harris' harrowing tale

I am a 3rd generation designer, being the granddaughter of Couturier, Rose Taft. I make people more beautiful for a living. I love being involved in people's lives by designing dresses for special moments & celebrating with them. I am a strong supporter of women in business. I am a breast cancer survivor. And I am still Melanie Harris. A stronger, more determined, fiercer version of me, Melanie Harris.

That last one threw me. Me? This wasn't supposed to happen. I was the one raising money for breast cancer research. I donate money. I donate time. I donate gowns for auction. And now, I'm on the other side?

But I'm the one in control. I'm the one responsible for creating beauty. But how can I create beauty when I felt anything but beautiful at that moment? I felt afraid. I felt scared. I felt scarred. I felt alone - even though there are millions of people aware of this disease and countless survivors. Still, the "C" word is certainly a scary one.

Survivor. That word terrified me. I didn't survive anything. "It's a bump in the road," I said to myself. But I know what I survived: I survived the initial horror of hearing the words, "you have breast cancer," the surgeries, the countless doctors appointments and the unknown. Surviving cancer was never a question. It was a given. I did not want sympathy from family, friends or colleagues. I wanted privacy and positivity, as sympathy only scared me and would knock me off track when I had a business and children to care for. I tried hard not to let fear take over. I absolutely was not going to let cancer define me, but it certainly was going to change me.

And now, that initial diagnosis brought me to my first fork in the road. Do I curl up and feel sorry for myself and hope people lift me up? Or do I dig deep and accept my new body, my new mindset and plow forward with success? I can tell you, it was a little of both. At first, admittedly, I was paralyzed with fear. With each purchase order for gowns and dresses that came through my office, there was also slight anxiety about deliveries coordinating with my surgeries and recuperation. As happy as I was to be a part of each of these special occasions, my insides ached with emotion that no one truly knew I was feeling.

And, therefore, it was time for me to tell my story further. To free myself and to let so many others know the highs & lows of what being a breast cancer survivor really feels like. To join the club I never wanted to be a part of.

One thing is crystal clear: I'm living proof that early detection saves lives, as it saved my own. My mission has changed, both personally & professionally. Gone are the days of only keeping my eye on the bottom line. It's not just about the money and making ends meet anymore. It's not just about red carpet appearances and styling TV personalities. My purpose has been literally carved into my brain and my heart. I am going to continue to make women feel more beautiful, regardless of what is happening to her mind, body and soul, I can help make her feel glamorous and gorgeous again, even if just for a few hours and take her mind off of how she may feel emotionally or how she may look undressed in the mirror at home. Chiffon, sequins, feathers, leather and lace can help dress up the scars beneath - even for a few moments. And I know this because it's now my story. Feeling beautiful on the outside, makes you feel more beautiful on the inside & vice versa. And if my story can help women - then I am doing something positive for the club.

The brilliant doctors, nurses and staff at the NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center in NYC are treating me, therefore I have chosen to donate a portion of proceeds from the sale of each Melanie Harris design for breast cancer survivors, mastectomy patients, women undergoing reconstruction, etc to NYU for continued research. Since my diagnosis in December of 2015, I am designing one on one in the privacy of my NYC atelier. One on one allows me to be fortunate enough to know my clients and their stories, which enables me to design even more personalized pieces for their special occasions and I can help give them their confidence back that they once felt.

Breast cancer was not supposed to happen to me. But life happens and we change our path and a new journey begins. I am even more dedicated to help empower women to feel proud, strong, able and confident. I encourage women to ask me about my story and to share their stories with me - after all, I am now part of the club! We are the lucky ones. We are survivors!

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