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“I refused to wear a wig or a scarf”: woman battling cancer pursues groundbreaking career as a model

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha
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Loss of hair, energy and confidence are just some of the hurdles that cancer patients face. 

But one 25-year-old hasn’t let her illness get in the way of her ambitions by landing a contract with a global modelling agency, walking for various fashion shows and modelling for Urban Outfitters.

At the age of 22, Danya Christison from Warwick, New York, was diagnosed with of Nodular Sclerosis Hodgkin’s Lymphoma - a cancer of the lymphatic system.  

“I was just coming out of graduation and trying to figure out my next step in life,” she told BuzzFeed News. It was after her second stem cell transplant that a photographer friend asked her if he could take some photos of her for his portfolio.

“I agreed and from there, when he started posting the photos I got a bunch of photographers that were really interested in working with me,” she said. “Mind you, I was straight bald at this point.”

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Over the course of the last three years, Christison found out her cancer was at stage 4 (which means the cancer has spread to another organ) and has undergone chemotherapy treatment and a clinical trial. But throughout the process she continued to pursue her career in modelling, all the while defying conventions within the industry:

“I refused to wear a wig or a scarf because...that’s how I looked and I didn’t want to hide that because of what other people thought,” she said.

“It was hard sometimes. I would get a lot of anxiety walking into places and felt weird when people would ask me about it.”

But after going on a casting call, she was soon signed to Major Models, a global modelling agency based in New York whose clients include Dior, Estee Lauder, Gucci and Ralph Lauren.

Christison has so far walked in six fashion shows and appeared in campaigns for the likes of Urban Outfitters.

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She describes it as a "surreal" experience and that the best part is how she's been able to reinstate confidence in women going through a similar experience.

"It was one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever had to have someone say that I helped them feel more confident because of my confidence,” she said. “I decided then that I needed to do this to help anyone I can feel even a little bit more secure in such an insecure time in their lives.” 

She added: “There’s always going to be something pushing you back. It’s how you decide to react to those obstacles and how you push through them that makes you achieve the things that you really want to get out of life.”

For more information on Hodgkin lymphoma visit cancerresearchuk.org.

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha

Sejal Kapadia Pocha covers stories about everything from women’s issues to cult foods. She describes herself as a balance between Hermione and Luna Lovegood.

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