Carla Hill- Conquering Cancer and Society’s Standard of Femininity

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Carla Hill is a breast cancer survivor. Hill discovered a lump in her right breast as she was getting ready for her cousin’s wedding. The lump immediately frightened Hill for two reasons: first, it seemed to appear out of nowhere; second, her mother was a breast cancer survivor.

Hill, 33 at the time, was beginning to feel pretty confident in her own skin. Hill had a standing appointment with her hairstylist to blow out her prized, long, shiny, dark hair every two weeks After discovering the lump and having had a kidney transplant just five years before, there was no way that she could have cancer, Hill speculated. All she kept thinking was, “Who gets a new organ and then has to do chemo? It’s either one or the other, right?”

Hill quickly learned that breast cancer doesn’t care who you are or what you’ve been through. Hill was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer and felt much angrier than sad. Hill had been a “good girl” all of her life; she said no to drugs as instructed when she was a teen. Hill never smoked and exercised pretty regularly. Hill questioned, “Why was this happening to me?” “What would happen to my prized hair?”

When Hill’s mom, Hazel, went through cancer, she did not share all of details of journey with her brother, Stephen, or Hill. Hill remembered that her mom was isolated in a room while her stem cells were being harvested for a new treatment. Hill recalled her mom plucking clumps of her hair out her scalp into tufts that could fill a pillow. But somehow Hazel found the strength to drive with Hill’s stepfather, Walter, to Tallahassee to see Hill graduate from Florida State University. “Looking back now,” said Hill, “I recognize that it was with breathless, sheer determination that she fought to be out [here] with our family.”

Hill’s surgeon, Dr. Frederick Moffat, cemented the new attitude she needed to adopt when he told her that her cancer fight was not just about medicine, it was a mental game as well. After that first meeting with him, Hill decided to change her entire way of thinking in order to live the longest life possible.

Before her first round of chemo, Hill’s husband, Marlon, set up a private appointment with his barber for her to shave off her beloved hair. Hill would still be the “girly girl” that she loved to be. The new girly her would just have more of a Grace Jones edge, that’s all. Grace is tough, no nonsense, and is sexier than any full-breasted, long-haired woman. With her mother as the foundation, Grace’s persona would help to define the “new normal” Hill was about to encounter.

Now, nine years a survivor, Hill uses her role as a survivor to show all women that they shouldn’t be defined by society’s standards of beauty or femininity. Even without her breasts (she did not choose reconstruction), continues to be a make-up and fashion loving woman. Being a survivor has allowed Hill the opportunity to be a voice and an example for those women whose self-esteem has been knocked down by cancer. Even those friends who are “well” have complimented Hill on the way she has chosen to live life on her own terms.

Hill keeps herself very busy with her endeavors. Hill works as a Television Host for WPBT2- South Florida PBS. As well as being a television host, Hill works in theater education and is the outreach manager at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center. Hill has done interviews with Good Enough Mother, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer System, where she underwent treatment, Curly Nikki, and other outlets to share her story as a conquistador. Hill lives her life full speed; this is how Carla Hill chooses to live her life now- on her own terms.

Using her story of triumph, Hill will be the keynote speaker, presented by Miami Urban Contemporary Experience, at the Hang Your Bra Art Exhibition Opening Reception. Having personally walked the path of finding out about having breast cancer, enduring treatment, conquering breast cancer, having a mastectomy, and defining femininity for herself, Hill will share her story as a platform to give other women courage and support those women who are faced with the similar challenges to defeat them.

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The Hang Your Bra Art Exhibition was curated to celebrate women’s rights and brings awareness to societal triumphs and challenges women face for having breasts (e.g. breast cancer survival and loss, acceptance and restriction of nursing in public, objectification of breast as sexual pleasure, restrictive garments that pronounce or hide a women’s breast). And the desire and rejection of breast as an identifier of femininity, too.

The opening reception on will take place Wednesday, October 5th, from 3pm – 9pm. Hang your Bra for the Cause is presented in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month at the Little Haiti Cultural Center located at 212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami 33137. Event is free to attend. Street parking is available and all ages are welcomed. To join MUCE at the Hang Your Bra Art Exhibition, RSVP here and like us on Facebook for details on featured artists, speakers, and musical performances.

 

Written by: LaTrisha Rowe, Project Coordinator | LaTrisha@MUCE305.org