Winner of Okanagan Woman Makeover Contest Iris Fink, is a wife, mother, sister and friend. She is also a breast cancer survivor.
What you notice first about Iris is the sparkle in her hazel eyes, her athletic physique and engaging smile. However, the year 2017 sent Iris on a devilish roller coaster ride. So, in January when she received the news from Okanagan Woman that she was the Winner of the Spring Makeover contest…. she was more than ready!
There’s nowhere to go but up!
“This past year I have discovered and undergone treatment for breast cancer,” wrote Iris in her contest entry, “First a lumpectomy, then chemotherapy, then a double mastectomy and finally radiation.” Undecided about breast reconstruction, Iris’ goal for the coming year is to get healthy and fit, lose weight around the middle and get strong again. “I want to learn to live in my body before making any decisions. I turned 50 in December and my radiation finished on January 2.”
Born in Germany, Iris moved to Canada with her family at an early age, growing up in northern Quebec, Whitehorse and finally Toronto as her father, a geologist, moved to various mining jobs. She attended Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, Ontario where she met her high school sweetheart husband Jeff Fink. Both went to the University of Western Ontario, Iris to study Business and Jeff, Kinesiology.
Now living in Kelowna, collaboration at home and at work now fills their lives. Iris provides administrative support at Okanagan Pedorthics and Sports Bracing, OKAPED, where her husband Jeff is a pedorthist.
So what has the past year been like for this active woman? She would usually spend her summer free-time hiking, running and entering events like the 16 km Stand Up Paddle Kalamalka Crossing, while her winters were spent cross-country skate skiing or downhill skiing at SilverStar Mountain Resort.
“In January 2017 I found a lump in my breast. That same day a mammogram reminder card arrived in the mail. Life became a whirlwind. I had a screening mammogram, then an immediate follow-up at the hospital for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy.” Two weeks later in her surgeon’s office Iris decided, based on the information she had, to have a lumpectomy and radiation. Eight weeks later she learned her cancer was HER2positive, an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Then she discovered another lump. Chemotherapy followed. “My brother told me to gain a sense of control by shaving my head before losing my hair. I put my long blond hair in two ponytails. My daughter Michaela, 18, who is studying in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto, cut one. My other daughter Katrina, 15, who attends Kelowna Secondary School, cut the other. Amazing daughters, they were never embarrassed to be seen walking with me when I was bald. I wanted to show them how to stand strong against adversity.”
In early October, after recovering from chemotherapy, Iris made the decision to undergo a double mastectomy and more radiation. “Maybe it’s vanity, but I wanted my body to be symmetrical. I knew I could investigate reconstruction surgery later. I am hesitating now because of the risks of surgery and infection. Right now, I am all about healing.”
“Jeff bought me snowshoes for Christmas.” They’ve already enjoyed two downhill outings, and two cross-country skate sessions at SilverStar. “He is so positive. He has been my rock. When I was diagnosed, he assured me we would get through this, we were in it together.”
Pampering Iris with an Okanagan Woman Spring Makeover is part of the healing.
The schedule included a visit to Boutique Esthetics Lounge, located at 590 K.L.O Road for facial waxing by Valinda Curtis. “I seem to have more facial hair after chemotherapy.” says Iris smiling.
Our day continued at NV Studio, at 1771 Cooper Road, where hairstylist Jessica Langedyk trimmed, shaped and styled Iris’ hair. “My hair is growing back and is quite grey.. and I like it! I purchased an expensive wig but never wore it. When I put it on I felt like an imposter. A wig may work for others, not for me. Everyone is different.”
Then on to FACES Body and Soul in Orchard Park Shopping Center, where esthetician and makeup artist Jasmyne Wishlow treated Iris’ face to various natural mineral powder products developed by Jane Iredale. After cleansing and moisturizing, Jasmyne gently applied a primer and foundation base, followed by false single strip lashes, a neutral eye shadow and dark brown espresso eyeliner. The finishing touches: rose lip liner and a lip plumper with cinnamon, all set with a balancing hydration spray.
Further down the highway, we stopped at Fashion Foundations, 1950 Harvey Avenue, where, before her mastectomy, Iris had purchased a zip front camisole fitted with Velcro side pockets for post-surgery drains. On this visit, Susan Wort, the owner, fitted our deserving winner for prosthetics and a mastectomy bra. Fashion Foundations have an extensive range of breast forms and a very knowledgeable team always ready to help. Prosthetics can cost up to $400 per breast, but we learned from Susan that all women in Iris’ situation are entitled to some, if not all financial support through available benefits from Pharmacare. Susan has kindly offered to work with Iris through the process, should she choose the prosthetic option.
Next we took a short drive to Vernon to visit Casa Bella Fashion Boutique, located on 30th Avenue. Here we were warmly welcomed by owner Diana Vona.
Casa Bella is not a typical fashion boutique, this unique store also sells high end bedding and accessories…. such a lot to see, we found it hard to stay focused at times!
With a myriad of high-end designer styles in this beautiful store, a frenzied clothing hunt began.
Everything looked so fabulous on Iris, we were unable to decide on just one outfit, so we took a few! All outfits were from the adorable Frank Lyman line.
Back in Kelowna, it was our pleasure to spend time at the very stylish Kelowna shoe store, Strut Footwear and Apparel in the Mission Park Shopping Centre. Strut is a high end designer shoe store, owned and operated by Shandi Schwartz.
Iris, with the expertise of sales associates, Lynora and Brenda, had way too much fun trying on many different styles of pumps, slingbacks and sandals, finally selecting a couple of pairs of elegant stylish shoes that coordinated perfectly with her outfits.
More radiant than ever, Iris was ready for her photo shoot with Bonne Donovan owner of Bonne Belle Portraits. Bonne’s expertise shone through as she put Iris at ease in front of the camera. Iris posed like a professional in her first outfit from Casa Bella. She rocked an off-white draped halter top with ruched neckband, paired with stretch skinny leg pants and red platform high heeled Dorking pumps by Fluchos from Strut, perfectly accessorized with a silver pendant from Casa Bella Boutique.
Now feeling very confident under Bonnes direction, Iris takes this opportunity to try out the prosthetics from Fashion Foundations as she models a colourful stretch Frank Lyman dress, highlighting Iris’ curvaceous silhouette. Shoe the Bear, black strappy high-heels from Strut completed this amazing outfit.
Throughout the day Iris raved about the incredible support from friends and family, her cancer support group. “They listen to me, cry with me, laugh with me and take action in thoughtful ways.”
“My best advice for someone going through cancer is to enlist an advocate. When you first receive the diagnosis, your mind and emotions, and those of your loved ones, are going a mile a minute. If you can find someone who is slightly at arm’s length from the situation and can think clearly and speak up for you, it is so helpful. Eventually, you learn to become your own advocate.”
“This is a blip in my life. It doesn’t define me. I am ready to move on. I want other women to know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Things will get better.”
We felt privileged to spend the day with such an amazing and inspiring woman. Iris wowed us all with her twinkling eyes, engaging smile and her positive, “look at me now,” attitude.
A very big thank you to our sponsors for their time and generosity.