Upbeat, colourful style shift followed breast cancer recovery
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.
My jewelry. My glamjulz (a custom jewelry company based in Burlington).
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.
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.
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.
“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.