Mon | Dec 11, 2017

From survivor to warrior : The Kamala McWhinney Story

Published:Sunday | October 1, 2017 | 12:00 AMKimberly Goodall
From her diagnosis, McWhinney has crated White Lotus Blooms to help women with the costs associated with their cancer diagnosis.
Kamala McWhinney after the big chop.
Today, Kamala McWhinney is thriving and wants to use her experience to help others.
McWhinney's hair before her cancer diagnosis.
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When the storm came and the violent winds blew her way, entrepreneur and psychologist Kamala McWhinney had to adjust her sails and persevere through some tough times.

What started out as a nagging itch in one of her breasts, led to the discovery of a lump and a trip to the doctor's office. After an ultrasound and biopsy, McWhinney was diagnosed with breast cancer, at just 30 years old.

"It was like a shot out of the blue," she told Outlook. "I have no history of breast cancer in my family, so when I was diagnosed on October 18, 2013, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month of all months, it felt even more surreal. To this day, I feel as though I'm speaking of someone else."

The disease that made her lose her hair and eyebrows led her to question God, day and night. She cried, got depressed and was constantly angry, But one day as a friend prayed for her, the most amazing shift began. She experienced a heightened sense of gratitude for life and all that comes with it.

With her faith in God renewed, she was able to withstand treatment.

"I am extremely blessed with a strong support system headed by my mother Beverley King, aunts and a host of friends. I would never wish breast cancer upon my worst enemy, but the day I saw my 'survival sister', Althea Lawla, in the doctor's office while getting chemo, I felt a ray of hope. Having someone who has walked the walk and understands the intricacies of the mental and physical toll is a gift for which I am profoundly grateful," she expressed.

Though McWhinney resented her diagnosis, she was grateful for the prognosis. The cancer was detected before it had spread to any other tissues or organs, and she felt that the symptom of itching worked to save her life. Now cancer-free and thriving, McWhinney wastes no time in loving her life beyond the fight of cancer.

"I don't remember a time in all my 34 years when I felt so alive and grateful. It was then that I decided I needed to use my experience to help other women," she told Outlook.

 

'DON'T WASTE YOUR CANCER'

 

McWhinney always had a passion for working with girls and women, so when she founded White Lotus Bridal Boutique, she decided that part of her social responsibility would be empowering women. She created White Lotus Blooms, which focused on that.

"Battling and surviving breast cancer only intensified that vision. Ever since the end of treatment in 2014, Althea and I have wanted to launch a meaningful campaign around the issue of breast cancer, and we decided that this year is the year," she said.

During treatment, McWhinney was introduced to an article titled 'Don't waste your cancer' by John Piper that not only took a toll on her emotionally, but gave her many valid and helpful perspectives. This, alongside some deep conversations on other kinds of malignancies that sometimes affect women, led McWhinney to a campaign against several 'cancers' of the female body and soul.

"When I started my career, I did not have health insurance. I was 26 years old and wasn't particularly concerned with being more ill than I could afford. Being acquainted with the high costs of treatment, I want to assist women who may not be able to afford even some of the diagnostic tests and procedures," she explained.

In collaboration with some powerful women in her life, the Hope Blooms Campaign was crafted. The campaign, which will raise funds through the sale of products handmade by McWhinney's businesses - White Lotus Bridal and Isle & Lyric Body Collection - and sponsorship. They will also host a master class by Dr Karen Carpenter, clinical psychologist and sexologist, and host of the radio programme 'Love & Sex'.

There will also be panel discussions and sessions facilitated by a bevy of fearless, young women with a passion for life and purpose. These women include McWhinney, entrepreneur Dionne Hill-Waugh, and life coach Kaysha Franklin.

"The aim is to serve up resources to women around issues of relationships, self-worth, career, money, health and wellness to enable us to live intentionally and abundantly. Part proceeds from these efforts will be used to assist our selected 'Pink Warriors' with the cost of diagnostic tests, medication, chemotherapy and radiation, surgery, prostheses and associated costs," she said.

To be part of this life-changing campaign, there are more details at:

Instagram: @whitelotusbridal

Facebook: White Lotus Bridal Boutique

Email: whitelotusbloomsja@gmail.com or

kamala.mcwhinney@gmail.com

kimberly.goodall@gleanerjm.com