Permission Granted — A Wildfire Story

You have breast cancer, Leisse; and it’s aggressive.

When I received my breast cancer diagnosis at 36 – as a single, self-employed solo parent of three – I fell apart. I remember the feeling of leaving my body, just feeling like not only had the color drained out of me, but so had my hope. I felt in that moment like I wanted to just give up.

I felt very supported by my aunts and uncles, and still, I felt pretty alone. I remember coming home from the hospital one day, after forgoing work for another round of tests, knowing I still had about an hour before I needed to pick up the kids. I remember – vividly – laying on my living room floor and like, rage screaming. Just primal sounds pouring out of me at the injustice of it all.

Anger, anger, anger. Fear, fear, fear.

Lying there, I screamed out “HOW THE FUCK AM I GOING TO DO THIS??” and hand to God, without a word of a lie, I swear I heard, or felt, a response from way deep down within me:

You are going to make this beautiful.

My breath caught. What?

You are going to make this beautiful.

And that was it: that was the turning point. I decided to accept what was happening in my life at that moment, and I decided to make every single part of the experience as absolutely beautiful.

From my attitude during medical appointments to head-shaving parties to my kids labeling each anti-nausea meds with a cute unicorn sticker so I’d be less intimidated by their intimidating medical names to writing a book during my chemo treatments, I made every single touchpoint of my cancer experience beautiful. Even the ugliest parts.

Eventually, I came to know that a radical mastectomy would be the best choice for me in my holistic treatment and wellness, and I knew intuitively that reconstructive surgery would not be the best choice for me, specifically.

In choosing to “go flat,” I began looking for images of women who had done the same: women who did not feel the pressure of any external (or internal) influences to undergo high-risk reconstruction for the sake of “looking normal.” It was very challenging.

I found some photos of women who’d gone flat and added beautiful tattoos to cover their scars or pay homage to what had been such a significant experience in their life, but it was harder to find images of women who’d simply had the surgery, gone flat, then gone back to living their lives. That is until I found a stunning photo of Nikki McKean who posed for a Knix campaign topless. It was Nikki: beautiful, confident, content… and happened to be flat. I felt in that moment given the permission I didn’t know I needed to make this highly empowered (and unconventional) decision for my Self.

Immediately after I’d healed from the surgery, I was chosen as the cover model for the Body Love issue of a weekly Toronto magazine, as a Muse in an indie-brand lingerie photo essay, and I hired a professional photographer to take art-inspired photos of my now flat – and still radiantly beautiful – self.

This is what self-acceptance looks like.

Cancer for me was a trojan horse for deep healing. It forced me to confront deep and old fears and face them head-on to finally, finally disprove them and move on. It taught me to lead with my light, and to appreciate that beauty genuinely does come from within, as does confidence. And it taught me that when you do have the courage to let go, and trust that everything is unfolding in perfect order, in perfect timing, you appreciate that things do in fact work out.

Cancer gave me some of my greatest lessons; it brought me closer to my connection to the divine and unseen, while giving me the ultimate perspective that everything has a season, and each season really does come to pass. It taught me to shed layer after layer, and remove mask after mask, arriving, finally, at the me-est version of me, and better informing each area of my business to help other people shed these lay- ers for themselves, too, and finally feel free to show up and just BE.

It was cancer that was the ultimate culmination of life experiences that allowed me to live fully in my true calling – because it was the final push for me to not only love, but accept myself, exactly as I am.

In its wake, I found peace and freedom.

“Self-love” has become a buzz word, which is good because it!s opening up the conversation that ALL our validation has to come from within, but also means that it!s being “sold” as a concept instead of being truly embodied. And what the conversation has largely left out is that self-love truly is this notion of self-acceptance: the profound and epic ability to simply accept ourselves as we are, without feeling the need to be and do anything more than what our soul tells us is right for us.

Self-love is the realization that each of us deserves to love and be loved, exactly as we are, where we are, for whom we are, and that each and every relationship in our life – from work and money to life and love – is built on the foundation of the relationship we have with ourselves.

Each of us is worthy of our deepest desires, and has a specific purpose to fulfill while we!re here figuring it all out:

You really are enough as you are.

You really do have everything you need inside you right now.

You are more than the sum of your parts.

Your femininity is an energy that is yours to cultivate and develop, and your beauty is a beam of confidence and truth that shines from within.

Permission granted.


Leisse Wilcox — Conscious relationship coach, mentor, and author. Diagnosed at 36. DCIS, Stage 0, Triple Negative.

Leisse specializes in finding truth and beauty in the relationships we have with ourself and others. A Master Success Coach and two-time bestselling author changing the global conversation on emotional health and self-love, she has been interviewed in media including Entrepreneur, Refinery 29, CNN, Elephant Journal, the Toronto Star, The Birds’ Papaya, and Thrive Global.

A passionate (and TEDx) speaker, dynamic thought leader, NLP practitioner, top podcast host, cancer survivor, solo parent of three, and taco enthusiast, she knows intimately that every relationship we have – in business, life, and love – is built on the foundation of the relationship we have with ourselves.

Head to LeisseWilcox.com to connect with her books “To Call Myself Beloved,” “Alone,” and to work with her one on one. • @leissewilcox


This piece has been republished with permission from WILDFIRE Magazine, the “Changemakers” issue, published originally December 11, 2021. More information available at  wildfirecommunity.org    

WILDFIRE Magazine is the only magazine for young women survivors and fighters of breast cancer under 45 years old. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, WILDFIRE is a beautiful, story-based bi-monthly magazine published on different themes relevant to young women survivors, from stage 0 to stage IV. Beautiful and ad-free! Visit  wildfirecommunity.org for more info.

You may also be interested in

Cancer is Crap : Radiant Schmadiant
Wildfire Magazine Homecoming
Stories From Wildfire: Homecoming
First Baby, Then Breast Cancer: Sarah’s Story
50 Carroll Street Toronto, Ontario Canada M4M 3G3
Phone: 416 220 0700
Registered Charity #: 892176116RR0001

Join Our Movement

Follow Us

Donate Now

You can make a positive impact in the lives of people impacted by breast cancer

CLICK HERE