“Cancer doesn’t stop me being from being a princess.”
Last month, 17 year-old Andrea Sierra Salazar made this empowered statement on Twitter to accompany a series of beautiful photographs.
Image source: gerardogarmendia.com
The brave Texas teen posed barefoot, radiating in a flowing blue-green gown, to send a message to young girls battling cancer just like her. Soon after, her post and photographs went viral, receiving over 100,000 retweets and 210,000 likes.
Andrea first discovered she had cancer when she found a painful lump on the back of her neck. Doctors soon diagnosed her with stage 2 Nodular Sclerosis Hodgkin Lymphoma. Next, they found two more tumors, one on her collarbone and one in her chest. Andrea’s life then took a sudden and challenging turn.
She was forced to take time off school to begin treatment. Her mother suggested that Andrea fills her newfound spare time by seeking out modeling work, something that Andrea has always enjoyed as a hobby.
Image Source: Instagram
Andrea’s mother next reached out to photographers and modeling agencies who were inspired by her story. They were more than happy to have her model for them.
Then, Andrea began to lose her hair due to the chemotherapy. While Andrea has always been a confident young woman, her hair loss presented a newfound and challenging insecurity.
At first Andrea began experimenting with different wigs to hide her bare skin. She wrote on her Instagram:
“I would have never imagined being able to go out in public without a wig.”
The Turning Point
However, when she teamed up with photographer Gerardo Garmendia, he captured a beautiful moment of empowerment and realization for the inspiring teen. She came up with the theme herself: A Princess Without a Wig.
Image Source: Instagram
“I realized that I had no reason to be ashamed of the way I looked,” Andrea explained to Buzzfeed. “I should be proud. It’s not only about my outside beauty, it’s about the inside. That’s what really inspired the photoshoot without the wig.”
Originally, Andrea wanted to inspire other girls fighting cancer at the hospital where she’s being treated, who also feel insecure about the physical changes that come with chemotherapy. Furthermore, she wants to send the message that cancer shouldn’t stop you from doing what you love.
Andrea at the IBC Bank “Give Cancer the Boot” fundraiser and fashion show last week. Image Source: Instagram
Her powerful message continues to touch more hearts, and in more ways than Andrea could have ever imagined. Even the photographer was inspired by her open heart and bravery. He says:
“The way that she was coping with cancer was just very inspirational to me. I was happy to capture this stage of life for her and that she will have something beautiful to look back on even when the struggle was hard.”
Follow Andrea’s story on Instagram.