Hello, hello, my heroes! I hope you're well, that you feel full. Ready to calm down and smile behind the mask :) We're gathered here today, once again, to meet the April's hero of the month. And oooooh, heroes, I don't think you're ready for who I've brought you today! Let me tell you, the moment I "found" her, I knew I had to pay tribute to her. She had to become a hero of the month! This brings a refreshing perspective on a very heavy topic. I completely fell in love with what she does, from the moment Carina (better known, here on the project, as Cary) invited her to an Instagram live and I should warn you, the same will most likely happen to you after you read this post.
Without further ado, meet Daisy, April's hero of the month. Inspired bu the wonderful Mónica Santos Faria, a woman of strength, who uses her grief as fuel to power the work that's making an actual difference in the lives of so many. Yes, I'm aware that Daisy isn't similar in the slightest to Mónica, and that I usually give characters their names derived by the real hero's name... But we'll get there :)
I must say that I find, in Mónica's story, much of my own. Mostly in its foundation. The way she pours her heart in her work, and how much of herself she puts into what she does for reasons that are so strong and exclusive to her... Well. I'm getting ahead of myself.
Mónica knows grief all too well. Unfortunately, she saw her biggest hero, her mother, pass away due to a silent cancer that took her way too soon. Mónica was there for all the good and all the terrible moments of the ride, as she was for when it all ended. She didn't hesitate to take a single step to keep her mother company, even if it wrecked her from the inside - which it did, as it couldn't otherwise be. However, during this most painful path, Mónica found her path, with the help of her mother Margarida (Daisy, in Portuguese): oncological and palliative aesthetics. If you're anything like me, lucky and ignorant (in the best sense of the word), never such thing crossed your mind - logically, you understand what it means but you can't really put your finger on what it actually is. Well then, under the beautiful form of a promise, Mónica now dedicates herself, body and soul, to the aesthetic treatment of heroes who live with a complicated diagnosis.
Mafalda: Everything you do comes from a promise you made your mother. Do you feel that without that decisive moment, you would have found your "calling" and that you'd be changing the live so so many people today?
Mónica: I think Palliative Aesthetics was always going to come into my life. Sooner or later. Palliative Aesthetics chooses those it touches, and we get the privilege to be chosen. I say this because of the magnificent and holistic way of Caring that Van (the Pro) shares with us and teaches us. It could have been later on, but it would have gotten to me anyway...
Holistic Daisy is the name of the palliative aesthetics project Mónica created in honour of her mother (have you figured out why Mónica's heroes without cape version is named Daisy? Hehe). It's a tribute to her mother, who was light and love personified. It's a way of giving a positive meaning to everything that happened. It's putting the human factor first - before being sick, they're human (something that seems so simple and of course logical, but that's so often overlooked). It's how Mónica deals with her pain and how she keeps her mother close to her. And I understand this 100%. This project of mine was born, as ou know, from my inability to deal with loss. What helps me, every day, to pay tribute and keep those I lost close to me is to bring you people like Mónica, who are true heroes and who are changing the lives of many people.
As you can imagine, when someone goes through cancer or, let's say, a neurodegenerative diagnosis (yes, because Monica doesn't just help her "baldy ones", she also helps heroes with Alzheimer's, for example), the treatments that people are subject to change, and a lot, both their body and mental state. The self-esteem of these people becomes a weird of a roller coaster, and sometimes it becomes too difficult to accept the inevitable changes... That's where Monica comes in, with her beauty treatments and her lymphatic massages - just as she did with her mother, to help her feel more like herself.
Mafalda: Of all the people you treat, is there a story that marks you especially? Someone who taught you something you know you'll never forget?
Monica: Andreia was my first big loss. She was a Fenix, reborn from the ashes always. She had been undergoing treatment for a metastatic breast cancer since 2016. She stopped her treatments because she tested positive for covid and that was enough for the disease to evolve and be fatal. This left me with such a feeling of revolt because I almost felt that it wasn't the cancer that was to blame, but covid…
Mónica, very active on her social media (notably on Instagram), brings, in addition to beauty and a brilliant perspective on the universal and multidisciplinary care of critically ill patients, an issue that I'd never devoted time to think about - again, due to the blessing that ignorance is: palliative care in Portugal. I say in Portugal, specifically, because this is where we live and this is what we have available.
For many (including myself, before I met Mónica), palliative care is thought to be reserved for terminally ill patients, with no reservations for any treatment or expectation of survival. Apparently, it's not quite like that. The truth is that palliative care is an option for the patient from the moment of their diagnosis and, contrary to what many think (again, I was included here), it's not a death sentence. They're an option because they have a team prepared to treat the patient from a holistic perspective - which, in my view, is very important. Medicine takes us very far, very far indeed, but we mustn't forget, for example, the much needed psychological/psychiatric support of the patient. Or, naturally, of the importance of Mónica's work, which proves to be essential for so many. I'm truly grateful for the effort she's been putting into demystifying palliative care because, quite honestly, hearing these two words together has always made my heart sink, as if all hope would completely vanished. I have to say, of course, that generalisation is impossible and unwise - each case is different and there are patients who are referred to palliative care because, unfortunately, there's nothing to do if not trying to mitigate their pain and wait. However, it brings a little peace of mind to know that it doesn't always have to be that way.
Mafalda: What would you say is the biggest lesson/teaching that you take with you, every day, and that comes from the trauma of losing your mother?
Monica: That life is too short to get upset by the little things. That live is to short to only wear on colour of lipstick forever.
One thing I love about Monica, and I say this very honestly, is that she knows that she's changing people's lives. She sees it clearly. Do you know how rare it is to find someone who's aware of the impact they have? That finds enough comfort and humility to recognise that they're doing a heroic job that makes a real difference in someone's life, and not want to stop because of it?
There is no lack of opportunities or time for this approach so advocated by my hero of the month of April to grow and be recognised as the life jacket that it can be. We all know how conflicted our relationship with ourselves can become, so imagine a world without Mónicas, whose work returns to (not only) cancer patients fragments of their lives... Fragments of themselves.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Daisy and, consequently, Mónica. I'm extremely excited to have her on the team, I really am. I'm a fan of what she does and who she is. Broken hearts with this kind of willpower are not often found.
See you soon, heroes!
— Oncoestetic (Mónica's website): https://oncoestetic.wixsite.com/home
— Holistic Daisy (Mónica's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/holistic.daisy/
— Manias da Tia Daisy (Mónica's blog): https://tiadaisy.blogs.sapo.pt/