At first glance, former “The Four” contestant Sharaya J’s bald head seemed just like an extension of her eclectic style. After all, the stylish artist is no stranger to short cuts. But deeper than a fashion statement, her bald do was symbolic of something else — her battle with stage two breast cancer. In between tearing down her competition on the TV talent show, she was undergoing chemo therapy, which resulted in her hair falling out before she made the decision to cut it all off.
Sharaya, who credits Missy Elliott as an early mentor, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in October 2017 — the same month as breast cancer awareness month.
“I discovered a lump in right breast while on tour, but because I was away from my primary doctor at the time my mom suggested that I wait until I was back home to set up an appointment,” she explained in a candid e-mail correspondence. “Once, I returned I immediately made an appointment. I remember being on my way to the airport when my doctor called me and asked could I please come into the office.”
By the sound of her doctor’s ominous request, the independent artist knew something was wrong. “I knew that requesting me to actually come in for my results might mean something serious. I went and she informed me that the lump was malignant and I needed to get a biopsy asap.”
Her initial reaction: fear. “All these different thoughts go through your mind and I just lost my grandmother to breast cancer a few months prior. I immediately decided that I would not accept this disease as a death sentence. I went back to my mom’s house to share the news with my family and we all broke down in tears, but I also knew that we would get through this together, and that fact never changed.”
Sharaya began losing her hair after her first session of chemo. “It didn’t take long at all,” she shared. “Initially, of course it’s a hard reality that I would eventually lose all the hair on my body but it didn’t get me down. I was aware of what would happen because I watched my grandmother go through this same process so I just pulled from the strength I saw her exhibit to get me through.”
The Say Less rapstress didn’t hesitate to cut her hair off. “It wouldn’t be the first time I wore my hair close to bald so I just decided to cut it all off at the early signs of it falling out. While competing on “The Four,” I never looked at my bald head as a set back, I embraced it. I used it as sign of strength and was never afraid to try creative things with it, I rocked it as a crown.”
Despite losing her hair, Sharaya believes the general diagnosis was more a blow to her confidence than anything. “I believe just dealing with the diagnosis affects your confidence. I’ve never been a person wrapped up in physical appearance, so it didn’t mean everything to me. I worked on protecting my mindset, staying positive, and focusing more on beating this disease than anything else.”
Through her faith and the help of family and friends, Sharaya was able to stay motivated on her journey to recovery. “I would wakeup every day, so grateful for that one day and I kept that same energy throughout my process. I knew to reach complete healing I had to see myself there in my mind first before I arrived there in reality,” she said.
Since performing on “The Four,” Sharaya has been in remission for a little more than a year.
“My advice to women who are fighting this disease right now is never give up on yourself. We are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We never know why the creator places us on particular path’s, but know that you are powerful enough to overcome any obstacles put in your way. Although, I am in remission I am still fighting this fight with you every single day but I am aware that a diagnosis does not define our destiny.”
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