Sylvie Meis has been an ambassador for DKMS Life since her cancer. Here she reveals how severe her own illness was and what helped her in the fight against it.
Sylvie Meis (44) announced her breast cancer in 2009. “When I lost my hair, for the first time in my life I felt like my confidence and security had been taken away from me,” she says, looking back on this difficult time. In an interview, the ambassador of DKMS Life explains why it is important to her to speak publicly about the disease.
DKMS Life has set itself the task of using free patient programs to positively influence the healing process of those affected and to increase the quality of life during therapy. The campaign motto of the last few years “Cancer doesn’t take a break” will be supplemented this year with “DKMS Life gives courage to dream”. With prominent supporters like Sylvie Meis, the association wants to fulfill the dreams of those affected, big and small. The nationwide event day “Dreamday” will also take place on September 22 under the motto “Dream Big”.
Since your breast cancer diagnosis in 2009 you have been an ambassador for DKMS Life, a real heart project?
Sylvie Meis: I’m really excited about the great work DKMS Life has been doing for so many years, and at the same time I’m very proud to be a part of it. It is very important to me to support women and men with cancer, to give them hope and comfort and to accompany them in such a difficult phase of their lives. Especially since I experienced it myself and am an ex-patient myself. That’s why I’ve been an ambassador for DKMS Life and patron of the DKMS Life Dreamday for many years, because I want to encourage and support you in these difficult times.
This year’s campaign motto is “DKMS Life gives courage to dream”. What exactly is behind it?
Meis: We want to show those affected that you don’t have to give in to the disease, but that you can and, above all, are allowed to continue living your dreams. We want to give the courage not to have to hide or even give up, and together we want to fight this terrible cancer.
You yourself accompanied a patient to a sushi course with Steffen Henssler in his restaurant Hensslers Küche in Hamburg…
Meis: Exactly, Ines has had difficult months. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age and is a mother of two children – just terrible. The beauty of Ines is that she defies all the odds. She has made a to-do list of things she really wants to do in her life. One of these points is “Give sushi a second chance”. As an absolute sushi fan, I wanted to support them here. We did a little tour of Hamburg with her and then surprised her with a sushi course. DKMS Life, Eau Thermale Avène and I have teamed up here to encourage her to live her dreams and goals.
How important is it that celebrity women like you are or have been open about their cancer?
Meis: Above all, as a DKMS Life ambassador, I feel responsible for speaking openly about this topic. In this way, I can encourage others who are affected. In general, I think it is important that public figures draw attention to important health issues. On the one hand, to raise everyone’s awareness of prevention, but also to show that you are not left alone during and after therapy and should never give up. In this way you can use a large reach and reach people to show them that they are not alone with their fate. Nevertheless, of course, everyone always has to decide for themselves how they want to deal with their own situation. I chose this path for myself and I am proud of it.
Where did you get the strength to fight this disease?
Meis: My son was my biggest motivation back then. Seeing him every morning is what gave me so much strength back then. But I also drew a lot of energy from my job. At that time I was on the jury for the RTL show “Das Supertalent”, but on TV I didn’t let it show how bad I was. I was also very fortunate to have great people around me who helped me a lot with the wigs and styling. My stylist and good friend Serena Goldenbaum was always by my side. You don’t stop being a woman when you have an illness. On days when I was fitter, the motto applied to me: If I think I’m beautiful on the outside, I also feel better on the inside. Dressing up nicely in those moments, putting on a wig and putting on eyelashes has given me a better time with my friends or even with my husband back then. I realized that I can enjoy life even in such a difficult time.
Looking back, what was the hardest thing for you during that time?
Meis: When I lost my hair, for the first time in my life I felt like my confidence and security had been taken away from me. What was particularly difficult about it was not being able to decide for yourself whether and when you would lose your own hair. It was also crazy not to have any more eyebrows or eyelashes. At first I didn’t have the courage to look in the mirror and see myself bald. When the hairdresser shaved off the rest of my hair, all the mirrors were taken down. Only weeks later, in a good friend’s salon, did I find the courage to look. The friend sat next to me when I tried on the wig. I was living in Madrid at the time with my current ex-husband and our then three-year-old son. The heat under the wig was unbearable. At some point I walked around at home without one, it was a feeling of liberation.
How big is the fear that the cancer could come back?
Meis: I think about the illness every day, but it’s always very difficult for me mentally, especially before the examinations. I think that you can never really let go in your head. Despite these fears, I encourage myself to always think positively about them. If you only hold on to negative thoughts and fears, you have already lost.
How often do you still have to go to cancer screening today?
Meis: Normally I would only have to have an examination once a year. But I make a point of going to the doctor every six months.
What are you doing today for your health?
Meis: In addition to the ongoing medication, I do sport several times a week, because for me that is absolutely part of a healthy lifestyle. I simply need sport to feel good, and it also helps me to find a mental balance. Healthy eating is also very important to me. But it is important not only to be physically fit, but also mentally. The calmer you are, the quicker you can control your thoughts. That doesn’t mean that the world is right again straight away, but it helps me enormously. For me personally, meditation and positive affirmations have helped me to be strong mentally as well. In addition, regeneration phases are important, in which you take time for yourself, for example with an exciting series or a book.
The great new feel-good programs that DKMS Life offers people with cancer also help here. In addition to the “look good feel better” cosmetics seminars, there are now free photography workshops, relaxation seminars and encouragement workshops especially for men with cancer on the program. In these two-hour workshops, the participants can switch off for a while and discover new perspectives for dealing with the disease. This time for yourself is so important in hard times!
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