Women deal with issues on a micro level,' agrees Dawn Russell, who runs her own foundation aimed to empower young teenage girls. 'Men macro-manage, focusing on reaching a target, but women have a more holistic approach and excel at achieving one-on-one relationships and managing from a grass-roots level.


This collective philanthropic effort has been fueled by women sharing and connecting over their personal experiences. Twelve years ago, Manhattanite Russell, then a 25-year-old model for Ralph Lauren an Donna Karen, was diagnosed with stage-three metastatic melanoma. Too debilitated to withstand traditional chemotherapy or radiation, she underwent four years of alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, yoga, vitamin-C injections and omega oils, to cure herself. The decision to treat her illness in her own way equipped her with a profound sense of confidence and self-respect, which modeling had never provided. In 2002, a family friend asked if she would speak at his teenage daughter's high school in San Francisco. 'I was very hesitant, as I didn't want to sound narcissistic,' she recalls. 'I gave a five-minute speech to the entire student body and concluded by mentioning I was going to hang out for a while after, and that's when the magic really happened. I ended up spending the entire day there in one-on-one conversations with the girls. They were initially drawn in by the external glamour of my life, but then I was able to switch it and go internal. I saw my experience resonated with these girls. I saw it worked and thought, "How can I not do this? It is my responsibility."'


Three years after moving to London, she set up the Dawn Russell Foundation in 2005 with the aim of sharing the lessons she had learned through her illness with teenage girls. 'Throughout my illness I felt very alone, in total chaos, trying to get some sense of control in an out-of-control situation,' she says. 'This is exactly what teenage girls feel, just with a different struggle... boys, grades, parents, girlfriends, fashion. When I was sick, I acquired clarity, strength and the ability to be my own leader—qualities that young girls really benefit from.'


Preserving that personal touch is just as important for those involved as being able to see results, whether locally or further afield. Modern philanthropy is no longer about giving glamorously; it is about giving strategically and meaningfully.

Thousands of successful women have joined the drive to kick-start growth by mentoring other women wanting to succeed in business, the Home Secretary announced today.


Inspirational mentoring champions include Specsavers founder Dame Mary Perkins and Dawn Russell, who survived cancer and now runs her own foundation aimed at boosting self-worth in young women.


Other high-profile ambassadors promoting mentoring include Hallett Retail founder Wendy Hallett and digital business entrepreneur Penny Power.


Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May said: 'Women are vital to Britain's economic future and the support of a mentor will help even more of them fulfil their true potential.


'The Government is working hard to help women make the most of their talents, but we cannot act alone. I'm delighted by these mentors' commitment to helping budding businesswomen succeed - and to making Britain prosper.'


Women in business


Last November the Home Secretary announced funding to recruit and train 5,000 mentors as part of a package of support for women in business. The Department for Business revealed a further 10,000 mentors would be recruited to support both male and female entrepreneurs.


If you would like to share your knowledge and experience with small business owners please click here http://getmentoring.org/. If you want to find a mentor to help you set up or grow your business please click here http://www.mentorsme.co.uk/.


The Home Secretary also announced updates to a range of additional support for women in business:


  • Think, Act, Report - case studies are being published today showing how adopting the principles behind the Government's voluntary approach to diversity at work has helped leading firms - including BT, Tesco and Ernst & Young - reap business rewards
  • Women's Business Council - the council is today publishing the work programme for its one-year mission to identify and break down the barriers to female success
  • Women and banks - the government is revealing the initial findings of its review to ensure women have equal access to the finance they need to start a business


Female entrepreneurs


The Home Office also published today details of a £2m programme to help female entrepreneurs in rural areas start or build their own business.


Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: 'Britain has many talented women who will thrive as these Rural Growth Networks give them the tools they need to launch or develop their own businesses.


'Women are about half as likely as men to become entrepreneurs and we need to harness their untapped skills. Living in a rural area can also present specific challenges that these projects aim to address.'

Hear your heart, heart your health. Dawn Russell knows the importance of good health. Diagnosed with stage III cancer in her mid twenties, Dawn used eastern therapies and alternative medicine to help conquer the disease.


Dawn Russell is a wash and go kind of woman. She gave birth in four hours. She's married to a Lord. Her figure is Amazonian. Her complexion 'maybe she's born with it' and her hair 'because you're worth it'. She could have been placed on earth to make normal people feel short with big noses. But exactly the opposite is true. Dawn was diagnosed with stage III metastatic melanoma at the age of 25, changing her life forever. Now fighting fit, Dawn has spent the last ten years helping girls and young women through the growing pains of adolescence with her foundation, The Dawn Russell Foundation. The picture, if not the poster girl, of good health, what unravels over an hour-long conversation is a heartwarming and inspiring story about making the very, very best out of a terrible situation.


Using acupuncture, yoga, Chinese concoctions, meditation, vitamin C injections and Omega oils, Dawn helped her body revitalize from the inside out. And soon after she received the good news she had been waiting for. The cancer was finally in retreat.


Today Dawn is determined to use her experiences to help others. She regularly travels to high schools and colleges across Europe and America to tell her story, hoping that students will be motivated to discover what means the most to them. "For me it was cancer, but for other girls it could be divorcing parents, a broken heart, bad grades, drugs, or sex issues," she explains. "There's so much coming at these girls that there's no time for them to step back and think about what they want or need, or who they want to be. If girls can connect inwardly rather than seek outside validation then confidence will follow."


As well as doing regular talks, Dawn is a board member in a top US hospital where she pushes for meditation, yoga, and acupuncture to be available "as part of a patient's possibility." She has also just finished a term as spokesperson for C-Thru, a trio of Estée Lauder teen fragrances developed around the notion of transparency. "C-Thru was launched to remind girls and young women to see through life's pressures and reconnect with who they are," she explains. Dawn donated her entire salary from the project to her Foundation, meeting up with major children's charities like Save The Children and using the money to help micro situations, such as a girl needing money for surgery or a computer for college, helping the individual not the statistic.

When Dawn Russell, a spokeswoman for The Estée Lauder Companies and former model, was diagnosed with stage 3 skin cancer in her 20s, she was forced to quickly deal with many difficult life challenges. Now, several years into her recovery, Dawn is using the skills she learned as a cancer survivor to empower young women—especially teenagers—who are struggling with the everyday pressures of their own lives. Dawn offers advice parents can use to mentor their daughter, improve her self-esteem and help her cope with the ups and downs of being a teen.














Vanity Fair nominates Dawn Russell to the Hall of Fame explaining her work as spokesperson for the new teen fragrance by the Estee Lauder companies, and how her earnings are going into her foundation focused on helping teen girls.


Because she helps girls get comfortable in their own skin. Dawn, Lady Russell—who grew up in Oregon, Mexico, Paris, Massachusetts, and Manhattan—has in her time been a prepster, an aspiring journalist, a model, a motorhead (she’s raced Formula One cars), and the wife of a British aristocrat (her husband, environmental investor, Lord James Russell, is the Duke of Bedford’s younger brother). Yet Russell’s defining identity has been that of cancer patient. Diagnosed at 25 with a potentially fatal case of Stage III skin cancer, Russell, too debilitated to withstand traditional chemo or radiation, dedicated four post-operative years to investigating non-Western treatments.


“Through the process of healing myself, I found my passion in Eastern medicine,” she says. “It gave me my center, my anchor.” After talking at a San Francisco high school about her medical odyssey, Russell chanced upon another calling—inspiring young teenage girls “to become confident young women. For girls today, the whole equation is backwards. They have so much coming at them—reality shows, celebrity weeklies, boys, grades, parents—they end up confusing their self-worth with getting the right bag and the perfect hair.” The demand for Russell’s heart-to-heart speeches became so overwhelming that she decided “to do something on a mass scale, with sponsorship.” Enter Estee Lauder, with whom Russell is collaborating on a trio of teen fragrances called C-Thru, which will debut in January. As the perfume’s spokesperson, Russell, 33, will contribute her earnings to the Dawn Russell Foundation, devoted to helping adolescent girls develop self-respect. “I didn’t go through a really dark path for nothing. I have a responsibility, a lot to share. Who knows where it will go?” In the meantime, don’t expect to see Russell’s elegant face gracing the C-Thru ad campaign. “I don’t want to be famous,” she demurs. More likely, you will find Russell in an Ashtanga-yoga studio quietly practicing her asanas—or maybe, someday, for therapy of a less Zen variety: burning rubber on the M5 in her “dream car, an Aston Martin DB5.”

Exclusive first press release of Dawn's role as spokesperson for the new teen fragrance C-thru by the Estee Lauder Companies.


The brand's spokeswoman is Lady Dawn Russell, a former model who was diagnosed with stage-three cancer at age 25. Now 33, she is cancer-free, but said she wants to encourage young women not to waste time feeling bad about themselves. "So many young women feel separate, like they're the only ones who are insecure," said Russell. "I want to help them find their center, their anchor." In lieu of compensation for her role in this project, Russell is establishing a foundation dedicated to increasing self-esteem for young women.

"Dawn is an influential voice in helping young women learn to be proud of who they are," Robin Mason, Vice President of Global Marketing says.






Dawn Russell, a Lady in England, to promote empowerment and self confidence in youth today


New York, NY (September 2008) – Aramis and Designer Fragrances, a division of a subsidiary of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., today announced that they are working with Dawn Russell, a Lady in England, to promote the message of the C-THRU Fragrance brand.  


“Dawn is an influential voice in helping young women learn to be proud of who they are,” Robin Mason, Vice President of Global Marketing says.  “By sharing her story of overcoming adversity, she is teaching them the tools they need to fight their own struggles – social, physical or emotional – so they can really find strength in themselves, which is what C-THRU is all about,” Mason adds.  “To have these young women think about her when they put on their fragrance every single day is reinforcing a powerful message.”

The women in Inheriting Beauty are serious people, they have careers, they care for their families, and they raise millions of dollars each year for charities. Dawn's chapter in this book profiles her work with young girls.


When American-born Dawn Russell turned 25, she was diagnosed with stage III metastatic melanoma and underwent four surgeries. After contracting a dangerous bone infection during her surgery, she could not undergo chemotherapy or radiation. Instead of giving up hope, Dawn set out on a three-year journey traveling the globe to research Eastern medicine for a potential cure. She now devotes her time and knowledge to helping young girls with their struggles, ranging from relationships to addiction and self-esteem issues. She writes a column for Ellegirl.com and is working on a book for teenagers. Her husband is Jamie Russell, an environmental venture capitalist.


My mother has been involved in the Tibetan movement my whole life. Having the Dalai Lama and his monks visit us from a young age, I was taught and always reminded through example the power of calm, precise, focused attention. My childhood was like a cocktail, a bit of everything, East Coast, West Coast, and Europe. While I became very schooled at adapting to new cultures, what I remember most are independence and self-assurance.




The women in Inheriting Beauty are serious people, they have careers, they care for their families and they raise millions of dollars each year for charities… The women of Inheriting Beauty have let their hair down… They walk in the streets, they are of this world and not above it… he has asked the women to just be themselves, to dress as they would at home, and to let him capture them in real time. They obliged, and he was not disappointed. He anticipated beauty, and he found it, plus an abundance of grace, elegance, and generous good manners. Getting away from the smoke and mirrors of a world maddened by celebrity culture, in the social firmament, in private lives, he discovered “a modern royalty and a modern luxury” – a luxury, as Moenks’ delightful book reminds us, that is “the freedom of being so alive and having the choices to do what you want.”

Honored as one of Vogue's four power players of the year for her work with integrative medicine. A four page story details Dawn's medical journey. Among a group of cancer survivors such as Kylie Minogue and Sam Taylor-Wood, Dawn discusses what she learned and is now doing because of her cancer experience.


Dawn Russell, a 33-year-old former model who lives in New York and London, and who developed Grade III melanoma that had metastasized to her lymph nodes at the age of 25, is among the cancer survivors who want to spread the message that life is short and special and comes with problems. She now works with a children's charity, going into schools across the US and talking to teenagers about their concerns. 'While I had all the external ornamentation of growing up in New York and the West Coast with periods abroad, private boarding schools and university, the twenty-something life in Manhattan, it is our inside core that must be our identity, not the external dressings,' she says. 'My scars of cancer are a constant reminder that life is about simplicity and grace, not quantity, the race to win in our capitalist society or the abyss of consumerism.'


There were several moments in the course of her treatment when it wasn't clear that she would survive. But looking back, there are things for which she is grateful. 'I met my husband [Lord Jamie Russell, brother of the Duke of Bedford] when I was at my sickest, so I'm grateful for that. When you get to the point where you can't contain your bowel movements on the street, perfection and approval hardly matter. When you get sick, you get a beautiful permission card that lets you revisit life. I spoke to some Lebanese friends who lived through the war, and talked about the warmth, camaraderie and laughter that the horrible periods brought. Look at 9/11? Why is it, that to get somewhere good, you have to have such a negative experience?' Unable to have either chemotherapy or radiotherapy, Russell dived headfirst into integrative medicine. 'It gave me a full experience of how cancer patients are poorly served by many aspects of our current medical system; this knowledge has driven me to the work I am doing now on the board of the Beth Israel Medical Center, and beyond,' she says.

Russell sits on the Board of the Beth Israel Hospital Integrative Health Center and has had an Eastern influence in her life from an early age. Her mother was involved in the Tibetan Movement in America and had the Dali Lama's monks stay at her house.


Dawn Russell (USA) A 25 anni le viene diagnosicato un melanoma in metastasi. Lei non si arrende e gira il mondo per trovare una cura alternativa alla medicina ufficiale. Vice la sua battaglia, e oggi dedica il suo tempo ad aiutare ragazze colpite dal cancro, e membro del consiglio di amministrazione del Beth Israel Hospital, e dedita al volontariato, ja una rubrica su Ellegirl.com e sta scrivendo un libro per adolescenti.


"Mia madre e sempre stata impegnata a favore del popolo tibetano, il Dali Lama veniva spesso in visita da noi. Sono cresciuta seguendo la forza della quiete, anche se la mia adolescenza e stata come un cocktail: un mix di East Coast, West Coast ed Europa. Un periodo di crescita, indipendenza e fiducia in me stessa"

Russell gives girls a new way of thinking, encouraging them to connect with themselves rather than rely on outside validation by sending them weekly mantras by text message.


Your Moment of Zen, Courtesy of Dawn Russell This former model beat cancer and in the process, discovered her own courage by Melissa Walker


When you first see Lady Dawn Russell, you could write her off as a pretty, tan blonde with a 1000-watt white smile and a killer wardrobe. Someone who’s never had a care in the world—let alone faced any adversity.


Ok, it’s true that Dawn spent some time in her 20s modeling for Donna Karan, she has some famous friends and she travels around the world. But if all you see is glamour when you look at her, you’re missing some things. Like how Dawn grew up without a father around and with a mother who suffered a breakdown. Like how she always tried hard to be the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, and to be the “still, quiet” one in a family that fed on drama. And how, at 25, she was diagnosed with stage III skin cancer and told to write a will. Um, scary!


That last experience really made her think about her life. “When I learned how sick I was, I responded by going to a place of calm,” says Dawn. “It was a beautiful self-absorption.” That may sound weird, but sometimes you really do have to put yourself first (it’s not always essential to return every single facebook message if you have other things on your mind).


Dawn decided to make herself her priority, and with the help of Eastern medicines, she is cancer-free today. She also met and married a member of the British Aristocracy, Lord Jamie Russell. So yeah, that’s why she’s a “Lady.”


And yes, she’s totally lucky and she goes to very fabulous parties and meets celebrities and generally has this life that lots of us dream about having. But the coolest thing about Dawn is that she’s fully herself. She consciously tends to her own self-esteem—and she wants other people to live that way too. That’s why she’s been speaking to schools around the country, hoping to reach girls and help them re-focus on the things that are really important (hint: These things cannot be found in US Weekly).


“I talk to girls who think I have the most amazing life,” says Dawn. “And I do feel lucky. But my life in the fashion industry, and as Lady Russell, is just like theirs. I’m at a fancy dinner where someone might be whispering about me—just like how girls sometimes feel at lunch in the cafeteria—and I have self-doubt. I have to talk myself through it, to tell myself that I’m good enough.” Dawn’s point is this: We all live with insecurities, no matter what our situation. And the sooner we find ways shift the things that make us feel bad, the sooner we can start being happy.


So how does Dawn build herself up? “For me, it’s meditation and yoga and mantras,” she says. “For you it may be jogging like you’ve never jogged before, or boxing, or writing, or keeping a journal.” If you’re wondering how working on your self-esteem by exploring your passions can help you land the guy you like or make you popular, Dawn says, “Have faith. Seeing a girl who’s laughing, feeling happy to be alive, letting go—that’s what attracts good people into your life.” (Including your crush… if he’s worth it.)


And if your questions are bigger—“How do I deal with my mom not being around?” or “I hate my body—how can I fix it?”—it still comes back to this core truth: Your problem has to do with self-esteem. Of course you’ll feel sad if your mom’s gone, or if you hate looking in the mirror, but it will help to change your focus. Build up the good things in your life, zone in on the things you enjoy doing, on the people you truly love. Then reach out to others, and joy will spread around you.


So here’s the deal: We dig this Dawn chick. She’s got some good things to say. And yes, some of this self-esteem stuff is a little out there and abstract, but it’s also totally important. Dawn is going to be sending out a mobile mantra each week—one that, if you take it to heart, can help you deal with anything that’s going on in your life. “My purpose is to help girls in the moment,” says Dawn. Whether it’s the moment you’re feeling insecure around a guy or when a mean girl says something totally bitchy to you or even when you’re dealing with a family issue, that’s when you can remember these mantras. Want to get them via text message? Of course you do. Text DAWN to 74625 get a little cell* pick-me-up every Friday, courtesy of Dawn.


*The club is free, but standard text message charges apply per your carrier plan.)

Dawn vice chaired the week long medical conference and sat on a medical panel with leading doctors and Michael J. Fox discussing the role doctors play in bridging the gap between alternative and traditional forms of medicine.


Lady Dawn Russell- Holistic Heath Educator, Metastatic Melanoma Cancer Survivor


Lady Dawn Russell is healthy, married to British Aristocracy and living a life most young girls dream about; but just six years ago, at age 25, Dawn was making out a will because she had stage III cancer. Cancer was not just a physical disease for her. Due to a dangerous infection she got during her third surgery, Dawn could not undergo chemo or radiation so (she) set out on a three year journey researching and using Eastern medicines to cure herself. She discovered her mind and body were intimately connected by studying methods of observing the mind, yoga, using herbal remedies, etc. Dawn Russell was honored as one of Vogue’s four women of empowerment this year. She has been in Self, Rolling Stone, Tatler, German Glamour, interviewed on “CBS News” sharing her story and is now using the information and tools she learned to help troubled girls with their individual struggles ranging from cutting, divorcing parents, addictions, low self esteem, etc.

Honored as one of Vogue's four power players of the year for her work with integrative medicine. A four page story details Dawn's medical journey.



Consider the amazing journey of Dawn Russell, a young woman profiled this month by Rebecca Johnson, who was afflicted with stage III cancer at age 25. After almost six years of agonizing medicinal voyages (during which she devised a regimen combining Eastern and Western treatments), Russell finds herself healthy, in control, and newly married to a remarkable man.



Holistic Healing— I just finished reading the moving story of Dawn Russell ["Model Recovery," by Rebecca Johnson, March]. I, too, experienced melanoma. It has been eight years now, but it is still quite frightening every time I go fora checkup. Russell's story was inspiring, and it shows that when you take things into your own hands, no matter how difficult the situation, you always come out smarter and, if you're lucky, in total control of your destiny. I am a devoted VOGUE reader and would love to read more educational articles on heath and women's issues instead of the trendiest blush and the newest facelift. -Nina Friedman, New York, NY

Dawn Russell explains how she had to take the helm of her cancer treatment and find her own formula for health, combining western and eastern medicines.


Like many people, I grew up thinking doctors were all-knowing. You get sick, they know how to make you better. But when I was diagnosed with melanoma five years ago at age 25, I quickly learned that there are limits to what physicians can accomplish. While the lesson was a difficult one, it helped me to discover a way of life that’s healthier than any I’d considered before I became ill.


In 2000, I was living in New York City, modeling and looking into graduate schools for broadcast journalism. About a year before, a mole had popped up on my left buttock; my dermatologist kept an eye on it but wasn’t worried. It was small, reddish and only slightly raised (not black, bumpy and irregularly shaped, the more typical signs of melanoma, the most fatal form of skin cancer). By the late fall, though, the mole had become itchy and irritated, so my doctor decided to remove it.


A couple of days later, she called to tell me that she was sending the tissue to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for further analysis. Of course I knew I might have skin cancer, but I didn’t get overly dramatic; it never occurred to me that it could be life-threatening. Even when I found out it was melanoma a week later, I didn’t panic: The oncologist said there was a good chance my dermatologist had already removed the malignancy. Still, he said I should have a larger area of tissue removed and also undergo a sentinel-node biopsy, which would reveal if any cancer cells had spread. I did not hesitate. I scheduled the surgery for the next week—the day after Christmas—fully expecting to greet the new year cancer-free.


If only. The doctors found cancer in the lymph node they’d tested and said I’d need another, more grueling surgery to see if others were affected. Out of four possible stages of melanoma, I was stage 3. My prognosis? There was only a 65 percent chance I’d live to see my 30th birthday.


The next two weeks were a blur of tests and appointments, but the results of the surgery were exactly what I’d hoped—all of the nodes were clean. Still, about a week later, I suffered a major postoperative infection that required weeks of intravenous and oral antibiotics. By the end of it, my body was ravaged. I was weak, my skin was greenish and I’d lost a lot of weight. I’d been through hell, and the next treatment options I had to consider seemed to promise more of the same: I could do a course of interferon injections, which would likely cause major side effects without offering much protection against recurrence, or I could join a clinical trial for an experimental vaccine.


I was already debilitated, so after consulting with a physician friend, I decided the risks of interferon far outweighed the chance of any benefit. As for the clinical trial, they enrolled patients only at certain times, so I’d have to wait for the next opening. I felt my treatment should address my needs, not the researchers’. Ultimately, I decided to watch and wait, what doctors call observational follow-up. My doctors would check me every three months, and I’d have regular tests.


Still, I had to do something for my feeble body and weakened immune system. That’s when a family friend suggested I explore some alternative remedies. She recommended a healing center in the Pacific Northwest that had saved the life of a friend who’d been declared terminal by his oncologists. After meeting him, I was persuaded to give it a try. I had reached the boundaries of Western medicine.


I sent all of my medical records to the center, and after a few phone consultations with an herbalist, I received a slew of supplements and tonics intended to improve my immunity and halt the spread f any possible leftover cancer cells. Within days of starting the regimen, I was exhausted, vomiting, and experiencing intense vertigo. Yet I somehow convinced myself that the symptoms were simply the result of my body cleansing the “toxins” and kept up with the program for six months before throwing away all the pills and supplements.


A year after my surgery, I still couldn’t get through he day without naps. Working was out of the question. But despite my fatigue and near-constant infections, I couldn’t accept this limited life. So I sought out top alternative practitioners, all of whom claimed success in treating people with cancer—but I tended to rely on word of mouth more than science.


The first person I saw was an energy healer who promised to release the “negative toxins” within me. When he held his hands an inch above my body, I felt a tingling sensation and a sense of calm. The immediate effects were wonderful, but they lasted no longer than an afternoon. A few months later, a naturopath I visited prescribed a liver-detox concoction, the ingredients of which included Epson salts and cider vinegar. All it did was leave me chained to the toilet. The homeopath I saw afterward recommended an incredibly detailed organic diet, a batch of dietary supplements and cooking instructions so regimented, I spent all of my time planning and preparing my meals. But this routine wasn’t the solution either. Following his demands didn’t help me rebuild my life, it became my life. I told him to shove it after six weeks.


I’d had it. I suddenly woke up and realized that there had to be a way to combine the scientific standards of Western medicine with the holistic philosophies of Eastern therapies. Must it be an either/or situation? After extensive research, I discovered the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, a network of top medical centers dedicated to a holistic approach to healing, blending the best of Eastern and Western therapies. The name that kept coming up was Woodson Merrell, M.D., founder of the Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. I met with him in the spring of 2004 and knew immediately that he could really help me.


The first problem he zeroed in on was my ongoing fatigue and frequent illnesses, which seemed to stem largely from my depressed immune system. He sent me to a meditation teacher and suggested weekly acupuncture treatments. Dr. Merrell also devised a nutritional plan that drew on the Mediterranean diet: lots of cruciferous vegetables, fruit and fish. He recommended several supplements, along with a Chinese mushroom that may help the immune system keep the growth of melanoma cells at bay. He even stepped up my physical therapy to help restore my leg sensation. (During my second surgery, doctors had to sever some nerves to reach my lymph nodes, which left me numb from the knee to groin.) When he told me that one of the supplements I’d taken—high doses of selenium—had been found to promote the growth of skin cancer, I realized just how important it is to have a doctor overseeing all aspects of my care, Eastern and Western alike.


I certainly don’t have all the answers, but this much I know: Nearly fie years after being diagnosed, I’m still cancer-free. Do I have surgery to thank for that? Most definitely. But I now realize that no single approach or person will ever have all the answers. It was only when I combined the best of both worlds that I was able to restore my health.

Dawn Russell, nee Alexander, wrote this article about cancer being her wake up call and now knows how to listen to her body mostly thanks to yoga.


The journey started when I got cancer. Until that moment, I was living my own version of the New York twentysomething circuit, a kind of psychotic, urban life in which car horns and screaming fire engines eased me to sleep. I was almost unable to sleep without them. I was in overdrive and, I thought, in control. I felt fulfilled because I was allegedly setting the foundation for a complete life. I had equated productivity with contentment. The problem was that I was looking at my life in pieces, trying to make each piece as bright as possible, rather than looking at the whole and questioning whether it really was whole.


The cancer was located in the lymph nodes in my groin. For most people, the onset of the disease would be a seriously dark moment; for me, it heralded the start of an important evolution in my life. I was in and out of the hospital for three months and underwent multiple surgeries. A quarter of the lymph nodes in my body were removed.


The doctor ushered me into his office and described the cancer in morose detail. Unexpectedly, instead of fear, I immediately knew that this event was the trigger I needed for a fuller, more balanced way of life. The prospect of death made little sense to me. I had to stop and go inward. I had to edit out all the unquestioned standards and unspoken pressures that society puts on the young, the thriving newcomers in the workforce. I realized that all the pressure was doing was killing me; it was not beneficial, it was not productive, it was not getting me anywhere.


Illness is the language through which the body communicates its needs. At first it whispers; then, failing to be heard, it screams. An eastern healer once told me to look at how I lived yesterday in order to understand how I feel today. Yesterday, I was all brain. I lived an overly masculine existence, relying on logic and crowding out the feminine way of letting life take its own course. With the cancer, the body had spoken. It needed a rest. As my journey got under way, I realized that in order to restore my health I had to remain open to all types of treatment, including happiness.


In the waiting-room, I noticed how easy it is for patients to descend. Some were grey. Some never looked up. Some could barely stand. Some were painfully thin. Some sat alone. Some lashed out at their spouse through fear. Some looked invisible. Some were hollow. Some continued their lives on their mobiles as though nothing was different.


As I spent my days in the hospital, I became friends with the nurses, receptionists, cleaners and doctors. It was amazing to see how they had become immune to emotion and operated on autopilot. I watched my best friend, who is a doctor, harden. I realized it had to happen to her; it is the only way one can survive in such a world. But the moment I smiled or made light of something, everything changed in the room. The others were brought back to life. We would laugh and have conversations about books or movies.


Rather than submit to the relative inflexibility of conventional healthcare, alternative therapy was my preferred path. I worked with a centre that devises a programme for each patient based on analysis of their blood. Most of its patients are on a combination of herbal and conventional medicines.


I was surprised to discover how much I needed to rely on my capacity to heal my self. We often think we should leave everything to the doctors because we are the ill ones and they are they trained ones. Doctors provide statistical analysis and standard medical procedures, and do their best within their professional parameters. But it is up to us, the patients, to examine our eating habits, sleeping patterns and inner dialogue.


The cancer in my body originated from a mole. As part of a research study, my moles are examined every three months by an expensive skin-grafting machine. I have irregular melanoma moles, making my results very intriguing to cancer specialists. One would think a cancer specialist would immediately excise a cancerous mole, but the advice given to e was not to. I took the decision to remove them anyway, against professional advice. Two out of three turned out to be malignant.


The removal of the tumours is the beginning of the healing process. I developed a dangerous infection from a drain that was put in my left leg after surgery, and it will take about seven years for the excess liquid to dissipate so that I can regain sensation in the upper leg. I could not undergo chemo because o the severity of the infection, so I had to find alternative methods.


I turned to yoga, eastern healers and herbal remedies, and they have become part of my daily routine. Each yoga pose helps open certain parts of the body, providing oxygen, stretching muscles, stimulating circulation and detoxing the system. Since the body and mind are intertwined, the more I cleanse my body, the more I cleanse my mind. My practice on the mat mirrors my practice in life—the better I am on the mat, the better I am in life. These methods have helped me regain sensation in my leg, while also bringing my whole body back to long-term health.


During my illness, every external aspect of my life began to remould itself in more positive form. I met my fiancé while I was ill; I walked away from an unstimulating career in the fashion industry; many of my relationships with my family and friends matured and deepened. The experience brings clarity to how you live your life, and also to every relationship. Without word or action, all your relationships come into focus. Some disappear, some become part of your being. An aunt I rarely used to see slept on the cold tiled hospital floor next to my bed for 11 days; a friend in the film industry kept sending me movies; another friend, a musician, would sing on my voicemail daily; another called hourly, as though I was going to keel over any moment. All reactions were unique and unexpected. What was clear was who was in it for the long haul.


As I look back on the journey that I am now, at 28, a few years into, I feel blessed to have had an experience that most of us dread. Each of us experiences this journey indifferent forms, but the destination is the same. The destination is freedom. Freedom to let go, freedom to be imperfect, freedom to walk away, freedom to say no, freedom to risk, freedom to dare, freedom to feel or say anything. Just as the old wisely become children again, we start and end at the same destination. The body communicates with us through health and illness; if we listen to it and follow our intuition, we remain free.