Every now and then, we meet people whose mere presence changes the way we look at life. That is what happened to me when I met Janae Veal. Janae reminded me a lot of my self. We are the same age (31), we both have a passion for using our talents to inspire, we are both driven and we both grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. There is one difference, though; Janae is the "one out of eight women" that will have breast cancer in her lifetime. Janae's journey is nothing short of an inspiration. I had the privilege of photographing Janae and asking her some questions about her journey. The whole time we were together she beamed and radiated joy. Her energy, her enthusiasm and her passion for life are contagious. Janae made me realize that many of the things in this life that we think matter don't. She went from having a very active lifestyle as a National Physique Committee figure competitor and personal trainer to spending a lot of her time in the hospital for treatments. But, she beat it. She beat breast cancer and is boldly looking forward to the future. Enjoy my conversation with Janae Veal below
BWA: What was your life like before you were diagnosed with breast cancer?
JV: Absolute craziness LOL. I worked three jobs (personal trainer, bartender and NIKE athlete sales associate). I was also an NPC figure competitor so I trained very hard, with two-a-day cardio sessions (seven days a week) and one weight training session a day (five days a week). My days would normally start at 4 am and not end until like 10-11 Monday- Thursday. Friday- Sunday would be filled with workouts and my bar tending job at the night club. I was super busy! Now that I've looked back, I think I was too busy.
BWA: Describe the day (3/29/11) that you found out that you had breast cancer.
JV: The day I found out I believe I was off of work ... I was at my grandmother's house watching TV with my aunt, grandmother and cousin. It was around 9 pm I guess, I remember I was waiting to see Chris Brown on "Dancing with the Stars" (I never watch that show, really!). Then my mom walked over from our house and started watching with us. Shortly after that my other two aunts came over, which wasn't normal at that time since they didn't stay close. Just as Chris Brown was about to come on, my aunt asked if I wanted her to tell me or my doctor? My aunt works at the doctor's office that I went to and I signed a consent form saying that she could give me the results if needed. So once she said that I already knew. I was shocked but I wasn't super dramatic, I listened to her talk and once she was done, I cried. I didn't cry because I had been told I had cancer, I cried because I thought of all the things that I had to do and wanted to do in the future.
BWA: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
JV: I will be running a successful foundation/campaign that raises awareness of the importance of faith and confidence in fighting breast cancer but more importantly through living life. And hopefully I'll be married. :)
BWA: What is one thing that you have learned about yourself along this journey?
JV: I've learned that everything that I thought was important in my life isn't. I also learned that I wasn't putting my faith to good use. I'm burning through it now though. :)
BWA: What has this journey taught you about femininity and the power of being a woman ?
JV: I've learned that femininity is not defined by your hair. I have even more confidence without it.
BWA: What is your definition of inner beauty?
JV: Inner beauty is how strong, loving, courageous, faithful, forgiving, honest, passionate, giving, grateful and sincere a person is.
BWA: What are some challenges you have had to overcome (mental and physical) and how have you been able to overcome them?
JV: Challenges as far as this journey are concerned: I had many financial challenges (because my work went to less than half [of what it was], 15-20 hours a week at a part time job), I had to depend on others (I'm a super independent person) and treatments were pushed back, therefore prolonging the journey (they were held off many times). I handled every single challenge the same way: I cast all of my burdens unto Jesus. My FAITH is so strong. I know that with every being of my body that God does everything for a reason so I let go and let God.
BWA: You wake up in the morning -- what is the first thing on your mind? Last thing on your mind at night?
JV: My mind never ever stops moving. I wake up every few hours in the night. Chemo meds keep me up and so does all the water that I drink to flush the chemo meds through. I promise it moves at like 1,000 miles a minute. LOL. And it's either thoughts of my health, thanking God for the good and asking him for healing in the bad OR it's thoughts for my foundation that I'm starting. I can't shut it off, I just turn it down. :)