From the first moment I met Eden Grimaldi, the powerhouse founder and president of MediaCraft, a communications firm in New York City, I immediately sensed her impressive inner strength and intellectual conviction. Over the last two years, we’ve teamed up on various projects and pursuits, but when Eden confided she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, we collaborated on something even more personal. Last October, we created a special version of our SUPPLE Moisture Rich Silk Cream with a pink kimono-silk tie, and donated a portion of each sale to breastcancer.org. This year, we are delighted to offer a limited edition AGELESS Enriching Renewal Cream with a pink silk ribbon, with $35 of every sale through October going to breastcancer.org to help increase awareness and research, as well as showing support for one of the most inspirational women we know.

On the day she found out she had breast cancer

Everything just stopped.  For the first time I had to truly face my mortality.  My dad always taught me not to be afraid of death -- that it's what you involuntarily sign up for when you enter this world. But it was scary as a mom (to son Joaquin, now 10) to think I might not be there. That left an indelible mark.

On her recently completed reconstructive surgeries

I recall a piece the NY Times magazine did on mastectomies many, many years ago. I was a very young girl when I read it, when cancer and oncology were so foreign to me…it was the photography that stayed with me. It was brutal. It became my visual reference point for breast cancer. Thankfully, so much has evolved since then. What a plastic surgeon can do is remarkable. I was blessed to have found the most unbelievably talented one, Dr. Chia Chi Kao.  Not only is he the best from a technical standpoint, but he was so vested in making me whole again. Because of his skill, I hardly bear the physical scars of the disease which leaves it mark on most.

On what she learned from her journey

I knew I was strong and had a soldier mentality, but when I was able to look back and fully understand what I went through, it surprised me that I never got angry. I didn't mourn my loss until a full year later, but I still wasn't angry. I tried to find something good (and believe me there was a lot of bad) in the whole experience and the take away for me was that I went through something that has the power to change you. Once you are a fully formed adult, how many things can truly shake you to the core and change you? Psychologists call it post-traumatic growth that occurs after a seismic event that is so devastating it compels a reevaluation of everything you value. I feel fortunate to have experienced something that could and did transform me. It was a very powerful experience.

On the importance of daily rituals

I have a few, and they all revolve around the practice of self care. I dry brush daily, which I started many years ago after working with a client who was schooled in Eastern and alternative therapies. I also do inversions, which I picked up from yoga some 20 years ago and lastly, I enjoy the ritual of tea which I have been doing since a study abroad summer program at my university where we were too broke to afford much else – just bread, cheese and green tea (coffee was cheap then too, but tea was the lesser of two evils in terms of taste). I eventually grew to like it and am fascinated by the rituals, especially the Kung Fu tea ceremony I experienced in Chaozhou.  I was in the highlands of China this summer and saw my first tea plantation and drank from hand picked leaves, which was very cool.

On what makes her happy now, compared to 10, 20 years ago

Some pursuits have held steady: adventure travel, food, sport etc. Nothing gives me more pleasure than exploring the most remote corner of a destination like a local. I doubt I will ever tire of discovery of a culture through food, but as I get older, I find that I crave the outdoors more and more. There is so much I love about urban life, but I have always thought of myself as a displaced country girl. Now I want land, open space, sky, sea, country roads, meadows, moonlight…all of that soothes and grounds me.

On why she decided to practice Muay Thai

I was a student of western boxing 20 years ago and was introduced to Muay Thai at my son's martial arts academy, Renzo Gracie, four years ago. In a strange way, that sport saved my life when I was going through my cancer and divorce at the same time. It is an art of great discipline – it is savage and beautiful at once. My coach Jamie (Crowder) is such an inspiration to me and taught me so much of what it means to be a real fighter. And it was an apt parallel in my life at that time.  I may be too old now to compete and get in the ring, although I do spar, but I feel I fought the biggest fight of my life and I will always get back up when I get knocked down. It is a brutally demanding sport physically, but even more so mentally. It is conditioning of the mind.

On relaxing

For me, relaxing and unwinding means doing what I love – cooking, practicing Muay Thai, fishing and dreaming about being able to nap!!!

On beauty

My approach has been fairly consistent, focusing on preventative measures and the rituals of self-care, always with a natural bent. But I take more risks now, like getting a hair cut that I would have never considered when I was younger (you'd think it would be the reverse), but I always want to be open to change and beauty has the power to transform you, at least externally, which can have an effect on your internal mechanisms.

On inspiration

I love quotes and have many favorites, but one that I never tire of is by Henry David Thoreau: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined." It's my touchstone.

On the future

In the immediate future, I’m looking forward to my annual "girls only" -- no husbands or boyfriends --  deep sea fishing trip to the Dry Tortugas next month. A few of us go every fall and we look forward to it for months. And my Muay Thai, I'm finally back after having to rest for several weeks – it's time to get strong once again.

Advice for someone fighting cancer

Remember that the choices you have to make are personal and should be made in concert with your doctors. Everyone will have an opinion, but be clear that the choice is yours to make. Ask your doctor to prescribe an anti-anxiety drug for the days and times when everything just feels like too much to bear. Don’t be a martyr. There are more good breast cancer resources on the internet that you can use (I like breastcancer.org) but don’t go Googling random information. Every cancer diagnosis is different, and the disease behaves differently in everybody. And don’t forget to ask for help, which is hard for many people to do regardless of the illness. No one wants to be a burden, but the emotional, mental and physical drain can be overwhelming at times. If you have a good support system, use it. If you don’t, build one. If possible, identify a patient advocate, preferably someone who has lived through cancer.   My friend Jodie made numerous referrals and went to the majority of my doctor appointments with me in the beginning. She had breast cancer the year before and knew what to ask the doctrs and was able to take notes for me. She already had done so much research that I was able to benefit from.

Advice for someone who has a loved one fighting cancer

Everyone handles this disease differently, so there are no set guidelines here, but I would say to have an open discussion with the person in your life who has been diagnosed. If you are feeling unsure how to contribute or help, tell them that. Ask them what you can do or ask them to give you something to do (make dinners, take care of their kids, shuttle them to doctor’s appointments, etc.). Whatever void the disease leaves in their lives, fill it for them. Be there.  Many patients are ashamed to ask for help, so make sure they know you want to contribute. Check in on them – call, text, shoot an e-mail – let them know you are thinking of them and want to see how they are. That you miss them. It can be a fearful and lonely battle for the patient but cancer also wreaks havoc on those who travel the path with them. It is devastating to see a loved one in pain and feel powerless to help. Don’t underestimate the toll it can take on you. Seek out a support group if necessary.

Always,

Vicky

Victoria Tsai
Chief Treasure Hunter

published September 2013

Living, Fashion
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Photo 1: Photograph courtesy of Mark Iantosca | www.markiantosca.com

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