Kara Dolce on feeling beautiful during the fight against cancer

The first two things you need to know about Kara Dolce: she’s a fighter, and she’s a cancer survivor.

In 2008, Dolce was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She was 26 at the time, living in New York City, working at a French PR company, and about to be promoted.

She was also falling in love. Nate, whom she describes as “the creative guy on the 11th floor with the long hair,” had asked her out on multiple occasions. But each time she said yes, she received disappointing test results from her doctor. She wasn’t ready to face Nate, let alone the world.

“I called Nate, and I was like, ‘I’m so sorry to do this, but I have to break our date yet again,’” Dolce recalls. “And he was like, ‘If you don’t like me, then tell me.’ So I finally told him to come over that weekend, and I told him I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Kara Dolce on Feeling Beautiful During the Fight Against Cancer2

His response was an affirming reminder that he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“He puts his hand on top of my hand, and he’s like, ‘Well, what do we do next?’”

The two spent five years enduring radiation, chemotherapy, and procedures including a double mastectomy. When the doctors saw no sign of any existing cancer cells after that, Dolce received the go ahead signal to stop treatment. She felt relieved, afraid, and strong—all at the same time.

Kara Dolce on Feeling Beautiful During the Fight Against Cancer3

“We don’t know a thousand percent that I don’t have one little cancer cell left in my body, but I feel empowered, and confident, and amazing,” Dolce says. “The thing that always stuck in my head despite this is: never give up. Don’t give up on your happiness, fighting this fight, and trying to make yourself feel beautiful.”

And that’s the message she wants to send, literally, through her nonprofit Fighting Pretty. Through delivering care packages, Dolce hopes to send cancer-fighting women beauty products, including makeup and accessories, that empower them to fight and not give up. Dolce recalls how important it was to feel beautiful and boost her confidence.

“I would always get dressed up for chemotherapy and wear bright pink lipstick, and big earrings, and colorful scarves,” Dolce recalls. “People would ask, ‘How do you look so good?’ It’s called makeup. I have no boobs, no hair, no eyelashes, and my skin is gray. I look like a sick person. But I’m faking it at the hospital because it makes me feel better.”

Kara Dolce on Feeling Beautiful During the Fight Against Cancer4

In 2013, the couple moved out to Portland where Dolce is a WeWork Custom House member. These past few months, she’s been ramping up support for her nonprofit by partnering with industry giants in campaigns to give women a confidence booster.

“We are partnering with Glossybox, a competitor of Birchbox, and they’re doing limited edition Fighting Pretty boxes anyone can buy. The proceeds go to us. I had a call with Maybelline. I’m asking for different sponsorship levels. So we’ll see what happens.”

Each care package includes Fighting Pretty’s iconic product: mini pink boxing gloves.

“I had these pair of mini pink boxing gloves that I used through my whole treatment,” Dolce says. “I would look at myself in the mirror every day and say, ‘You can do this. You can go into this meeting with your shaved head and bright pink lipstick because you’re amazing, and you can’t forget it.’ That’s what those gloves were to me.”

Photos: Tom Bender

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