Like many teen girls, Andrea Sierra Salazar once prided herself on her long brunette locks – a feature she admits shaped her identity.
But earlier this year, the 17-year-old – who modelled in her spare time – found a lump on her neck. After doctors found a second tumor in her chest, Salazar was diagnosed with stage 2 nodular sclerosis Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
(Nodular sclerosis is the most common type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma accounting for about 60 to 80 per cent of cases, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. It’s often found as a limited disease that involves the lymph nodes in the lower neck, above the collarbone and within the chest, and occurs mainly in younger people.)
As the Texas beauty was undergoing radiation treatment, she lost her hair – and her confidence.
“A couple of months ago when my hair first started to fall out I would have never imagined of being able to go out in public without a wig,” she wrote on Facebook. “But along with many other things, this journey has taught me to love and accept myself regardless of the way I look.”
After some convincing from her mother, the teen decided to dive back into modelling – but with wigs. And over time she worked up the courage to ditch the wig for a photo shoot she coordinated with a professional photographer, that’s when she gained a whole new perspective.
“I’ve learned that the hair on someone’s head doesn’t define who they are as a person but their actions and the way they treat others,” she wrote on Facebook. “All girls are princesses, and today I feel beautiful inside and out.”
It didn’t take long for her photos to go viral.
Rocking a long baby blue and silver-detailed gown with professionally-done makeup, Salazar is seen posing in a garden outside the Casa Polonia in Weslaco, Texas. The images were shot by photographer Gerardo Garmendia.
“Cancer doesn’t stop me from being a princess,” she posted on her Twitter alongside her photos.
Her goal is to inspire young girls who may be going through similar experiences.
“Sharing those pictures, I thought girls wouldn’t be scared anymore,” she told Today.
And her message is getting out, loud and clear.
According to Today, Salazar completed her last bit of radiation last week and plans to compete in her first beauty pageant this summer.Follow @danidmedia
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