Up­beat, colour­ful style shift fol­lowed breast can­cer re­cov­ery

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - SHERYL NADLER

Nancy McMil­lan looks down at the sil­ver Su­per­man ring on her fin­ger, gives it a bit of a twist and pauses.

Most of the jew­elry adorn­ing her hands and wrist holds a great deal of mean­ing, she says — the Women of Dis­tinc­tion ring she re­ceived for vol­un­teerism is hum­bling. The sil­ver Gucci ban­gle watch — a 10th an­niver­sary gift from her hus­band — is sig­nif­i­cant on many lev­els.

But the Su­per­man ring, well that one is a daily re­minder that she can do any­thing.

Be­cause one decade ago, three days be­fore what was to be a 10th wed­ding an­niver­sary trip to New York City, McMil­lan, now 58, was in­formed she’d have to resched­ule. Biop­sies and ul­tra­sounds were the pri­or­ity, it turned out, fol­lowed by two years of treat­ment and re­cov­ery from breast can­cer.

The watch she wears ev­ery day was a gift in lieu of the can­celled trip to New York. And it marks not only her wed­ding an­niver­sary, but the start of a new chap­ter in her life.

“I al­ways felt that I had breast can­cer for a rea­son,” says McMil­lan. “And I came to re­al­ize what that rea­son was and it was this.”

“This” is the life that came af­ter the surg­eries, af­ter the chemo, af­ter leav­ing her job in wealth man­age­ment at Sco­tia­bank. She loved the job, she says, but when she had the op­por­tu­nity to re­tire five years ago, she took it.

And she threw her­self head­first into vol­un­teer­ing full-time for the BRIGHT Run, an an­nual fundrais­ing run/walk in the Dun­das Val­ley that ben­e­fits breast can­cer re­search at the Ju­ravin­ski Can­cer Cen­tre (JCC). She started out as a par­tic­i­pant, then a vol­un­teer and even­tu­ally worked her way up to chair of the event, also a vol­un­teer gig that con­sumes five to seven days of her week.

Should the day come when McMil­lan is not seen greet­ing JCC pa­tients and doc­tors wear­ing an out­fit punc­tu­ated with her sig­na­ture pink, a shade that lives some­where be­tween Bar­bie and bub­ble gum, there might be cause to worry, she says. Be­cause when she said good­bye to her bank­ing job, she also said good­bye to a flock of navy and black suits, crisp white shirts and black pumps.

“I prob­a­bly put more thought into what I was go­ing to wear to come here than I did go­ing to work,” re­calls McMil­lan of her first week vol­un­teer­ing at the JCC. “Be­cause work was very pro­grammed. Here I could ac­tu­ally put my per­sonal touch and per­sonal style, which I didn’t know I had.”

For McMil­lan that means com­fort is key, her jew­elry of­ten does most of the talk­ing for each out­fit, and you can ex­pect a hit of pink some­where, be it in a jacket like the faux leather North­ern Re­flec­tions bomber style she wears here or one of her 14 pairs of pink shoes.

A fan of sko­rts and shift dresses that al­low her to move, she boasts a col­lec­tion of each in pinks, blues, pur­ples and at least one polka-dot.

“This is one of the ben­e­fits of breast can­cer,” says McMil­lan, who ac­ces­sorizes a white tiered top and pants, both from Tan­jay, with a pair of light-up, glit­ter kids’ shoes from The Shoe Com­pany. “I came to re­al­ize the dif­fer­ent skills sets that I have — or skill sets that I have that are trans­fer­able to the real world. And a demon­stra­tive per­son­al­ity by way of how I dress. And it’s not that over the edge, noth­ing that I wear is that zany or funky but it’s fun. It’s happy.”

The BRIGHT Run (Breast Can­cer Re­search in Greater Hamilton To­day), a one- and five-kilo­me­tre run/walk held in the Dun­das Val­ley Con­ser­va­tion area, will cel­e­brate its 10th an­niver­sary on Satur­day, Sept. 9. For more in­for­ma­tion or to get in­volved, visit www.brightrun.ca.

Most eye-catch­ing piece:

Prob­a­bly my pink (faux leather) jacket. (It’s from) North­ern Re­flec­tions ... I’ve had it for 10 years. At five feet tall, I put on the pink jacket and I can’t be missed. And I feel great in it. And I think when you feel great in some­thing you be­come eye-catch­ing.

Quirki­est wardrobe item:

A white or black fe­dora, and it’s got a bra on it. It’s a bra hat. And you can change the bra, de­pend­ing on what it needs to go with … (the bra is) al­ways some shade of pink. (I’ll wear it to) the cac­tus fes­ti­val, peach fes­ti­val, some­times when I’m here (at Ju­ravin­ski) do-

ing lobby sales.

Be­cause it’s a sig­na­ture item for my McMil­lan’s Mad­caps — which is my BRIGHT Run team — and my en­tire team gets to or has to wear a bra hat for the event.

Wardrobe must-have:

My jew­elry. My glamjulz (a cus­tom jew­elry com­pany based in Burling­ton).

Best pur­chase:

My lit­tle black dress. It’s just sleeve­less, shal­low round neck, you can put long jew­elry with it, you can put short jew­elry with it, you can put shoes — I’ve got black shoes with pink polka dots. And it can take on a funky look, it can take on a se­ri­ous look. It’s just your typ­i­cal black dress that I can put some per­son­al­ity to. I bought that at Holt Ren­frew.

Re­grets buy­ing:

Any­thing beige. From un­der­wear, all the way out.

Loves to shop at:

Just down-to-earth places. I like go­ing to Mark’s Work Wear­house. When I go to buy clothes for my mom at Tan­jay, fre­quently I’ll buy one thing for her and three things for me just be­cause you can go into one store and buy the same colour pal­ette in a whole bunch of dif­fer­ent looks.

Rid­ding her closet of:

Any­thing that’s huge, flowy, try­ing to hide what this looks like. When you get to 58, this is it. So any­thing that is ei­ther pur­posely over­sized or has be­come over­sized be­cause I’ve lost some weight.

Splurges on:

My nails. I get them done at a lit­tle place in Grimsby: Pretty Nails.

Beauty prod­uct she can’t live with­out:

Got2B Glued (hair prod­uct). Be­cause thanks to chemo and my postchemo hair, it was a lit­tle bit wavy be­fore and now it’s come back and it’s so easy that all I do is Got 2B Glued, a lit­tle bit of wa­ter and I’m done.

“When I see peo­ple in the can­cer cen­tre in the hos­pi­tal now, if I don’t have pink on they won­der if I’m OK. Be­cause … 12 months of the year, I have some­thing pink on or I have full-on pink,” says Nancy McMil­lan, who ac­ces­sorizes her white Tan­jay top and pants with glamjulz by Burling­ton de­signer Mon­ica Graves, a faux leather pink jacket from North­ern Re­flec­tions and light-up, glit­ter sneak­ers from the kids’ depart­ment at The Shoe Com­pany.

“I have quite an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of glamjulz thanks to (jew­elry de­signer) Mon­ica (Graves). And they’re tremen­dous be­cause you can put on any out­fit — I can put on my night­gown and throw on a glamjulz and look like I’m ready to go out. So it’s my go-to jew­elry,” says McMil­lan.

The watch McMil­lan wears ev­ery day was a gift in lieu of the can­celled trip to New York. And it marks not only her wed­ding an­niver­sary, but the start of a new chap­ter in her life.

PHO­TOS BY SHERYL NADLER, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

“I prob­a­bly put more thought into what I was go­ing to wear to come here than I did go­ing to work,” re­calls Nancy McMil­lan of her first week vol­un­teer­ing at the JCC. “Be­cause work was very pro­grammed. Here I could ac­tu­ally put my per­sonal touch and per­sonal style, which I didn’t know I had.”

“I have my Su­per­man ring which I wear ev­ery day be­cause we all go through days, parts of days, days on end, where you think, ‘Re­ally? Can I do this? Yup. I can do this. I did breast can­cer,’” says McMil­lan. Be­low: Light-up, glit­ter, mul­ti­coloured sneak­ers from the kids’ depart­ment at The Shoe Com­pany. Bot­tom: A neck­lace from glamjulz, a cus­tom jew­elry maker based in Burling­ton.

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