Live Like a Queen: A Q&A With Sarah White

Insight Articles
December 15, 2016
By: 
Eric Fitzsimmons, Copy Editor and Content Coordinator

Sarah WhiteSarah White, 36, of Huntington, West Virginia, does not mind the spotlight. She first participated in pageants in her teens, and when she was diagnosed with early-stageinfo-icon, triple-negative breast cancerinfo-icon in 2013 she dealt with it in a very public way by joining a dance competition in the style of “Dancing with the Stars.” When she learned last year that she had metastaticinfo-icon breast cancer, she went back to her roots and pursued a state pageant crown. She entered a pageant run by Miss All-Star United States and in April won the title of Mrs. West Virginia. Since then, Sarah, a special education teacher and mother of two, has been using her crown to help bring attention to breast cancer issues at schools and in the state capitol, where she has worked with legislators to increase access to breast cancer screenings. Sarah has been open in news coverage about her decision to enter a clinical trialinfo-icon and her mission to help other people see them as treatment options.

She spoke with Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s copy editor and content coordinator Eric Fitzsimmons about what it was like competing in a pageant as a woman with breast cancer and how she has been using her crown to inspire others.

Eric

What inspired you to enter a pageant as someone with breast cancer?

Sarah

As a teenager I always wanted to be a state titleholder, but it was always about the crown. It had nothing to do with what you could do with a crown or a title, it was just “Ooh, a pretty tiara!” This time it was about what I could do with it, the platform that I could [use to] show other women that are fighting the [same] fight that they don’t have to wallow in it — that they can be a queen. They can be what they want to be and do what they want to do. … Stage IV does not mean that you are dying right now.

Eric

What challenges did you face getting up on stage after being diagnosed?

Sarah

I have been on the stage since I was about 3 years old. I have been in front of people my entire life, so being on stage was not the difficult part. It was preparing my body, because I was not ready for pageantry at all. So when I decided to do this last October I had to start taking care of myself, and I needed to change [my lifestyle] anyway because of cancer, so this was a good way for me to do that.

I started doing Pilates twice a week. I started eating healthier. … I was trying to not eat a lot of processed foods and [I paid attention to] portion control.

So that was the hard part, having that mindset and that goal to prepare my body for being on stage because it wasn’t just eveningwear, it wasn’t just an interview, I had to put on a bathing suit, and as a mom with two kids I didn’t have the bikini body that I wanted.

Eric

What impact did having had breast surgeryinfo-icon, wearing a wig, and dealing with treatment side effects have on you as you competed in the pageant?

Sarah

It was actually kind of easy with the wig ... where other women are fretting about their hair, I just put [the wig] on my head and fixed it and didn’t have to worry about my hair!

And it’s all about confidence ... regardless of how large your breasts are or how small they are, being in a bathing suit, being onstage or offstage, it’s all how you feel about yourself.

Eric

How are you using the Mrs. West Virginia title to bring attention to breast cancer issues?

Sarah

Right now, I work with the American Cancer Society’s “Look Good, Feel Better” program where I teach women how to apply their makeup, draw their eyebrows, hide their scars. And [for them] it is a relief when I take off my wig and they see that the person teaching them is also going through this traumatic experience of chemotherapyinfo-icon. I am also working with some of the high schools in my area. I am talking about breast cancer and self-checking and awareness to the high school students.

Eric

You have spoken about clinicalinfo-icon trials. Why do you think they are important?

Sarah

Well, I’m on a clinical trial. I quit responding to chemotherapy in May and Cleveland Clinic had a clinical trial that accepted me. A lot of people are afraid to try clinical trials. “What if it doesn’t work? What if my body rejects it?” … People are afraid. We only live once and a clinical trial can save your life. I have two babies: I have a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old. I want to see them grow up — that’s what my fight is. Life is short and you have to live it, and if you want to live it to the fullest, you have to try to do everything you can. So, if a clinical trial is there, why not?  

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