It was a brutally cold day on the south side of Chicago, in January of 2009, when Arnett Faulkner was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. “Typically we find 80% of people’s results are noncancerous and 20% are cancerous,” a radiologist told her. “But you fall in the 20% category.”
Following this statement, understandably, everything became a complete blur for Faulkner. “I think that I toned her out and became numb,” she explains. “I remember calling my husband to pick me up. I walked down the hall of the hospital praying that I wouldn’t run into anyone.” The silence continued even through the entire car ride home. “I knew, from that point on, my life would forever change.”
She initially underwent one lumpectomy and later found that they didn’t extract all the cancer cells. One month later, a second lumpectomy followed. “After my second lumpectomy, I was told that they found an additional mass,” she says. She then decided to undergo a radical mastectomy of her right breast– a 10 hour procedure called a rectus abdominis flap. Immediately after the surgery, doctors realized the blood vessel was clotted– leaving Faulkner to endure yet another surgery in the middle of the night. “I was in the hospital for over a week and upon returning home, the vein feeding the tissue in my breast occluded. I was rushed back to the hospital and remained there for over 2 weeks, undergoing an additional 4-hour surgery,” she says.
After becoming cancer-free in June of 2009– in large-part thanks to her own strength, lifestyle changes, and the support of family and friends– she began making her own body care products. “I became very particular about what products I used on my body and also on my eczema-prone son’s,” she says.
Naturally, she began sharing her recipes with family and friends. Because her community loved the products so much, they began encouraging her to launch a full-blown business. “I never intended to make money from my products as they were meant to help me and my son,” she says. But in the name of helping others, in 2014, “I formed a name and corporation and a year later I launched AHF Body Chemistry.” And creating the line– which includes heavenly-scented, and deeply nourishing body butters– was all worth it. More recently, AHF Body Chemistry has been found in the likes of Whole Foods, Mariano’s, and magazines such as Vogue, and Well + Good. Currently, Faulkner is working on restructuring and rebranding the incredible line of natural products.
These days, through anything she has going on, Faulkner ensures to put her health first. She does this via healthy eating and drinking habits, and reducing stress by meditating and praying daily. “Self-care is the best and most vital thing we can do for ourselves in life for the mind, body, and spirit,” she says. “I trust that God provided me with all that I need to make it through any storm.”
For anyone who is currently battling breast cancer, Faulkner’s advice is to “take a deep breath, get all of the facts, weigh your options, and ask as many questions as you need to,” she says. Faulkner of course understands that everyone’s battle and financial means are different as well. Therefore, she also recommends seeking out a local breast cancer awareness group. “They can provide answers to questions you may not even know that you had. They are very supportive and remind you that you are not alone in your battle,” she says. “Your mind may wander but stay focused on the outcome that you want and not where you are,” Faulkner adds. “It’s an ongoing battle,” she says of the 11 surgeries she’s undergone to this date. “But I continue to fight!”
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