A Cheshire mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer has started a thriving business.
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Cody Gapare, out Northwich, founded a company that makes false eyelashes for chemotherapy patients after her own battle with cancer.
The 43-year-old was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2014, when she was just 36.
The mother of two was so convinced she didn’t have cancer that she collected her results on her own and went to a college interview a few hours later for a law school place.
When told that the grape-sized bump she discovered when she got out of the shower was malignant, she apologized without even giving the doctor a chance to talk about her treatment. MEN reports.
Cody said, “I found out I had cancer at 3:00 PM and went to my college interview at 6:00 PM.
“I convinced myself it wouldn’t be cancer. I was only 36, I had never drunk or smoked in my life and was very active. I was so sure it couldn’t be cancer that I didn’t see one … point to cancel my interview.
“I didn’t even go with anyone to the appointment because I didn’t think I needed support. I thought I’d just get my results and then go to Manchester to my conversation.”
When she received the devastating news that she had breast cancer, Cody’s instinct was to run.
She said: “The news absolutely knocked me out. People behave differently when they receive bad news. I covered it up a bit.
“The doctor started talking about the cancer gene and different treatments and I started picking up my stuff. I was like, ‘Okay, I have to go, I have an interview.’ And I just ran out the door.”
The following week she returned to see her medical team at Leighton Hospital in Crewe, they wanted to enroll her in a lumpectomy right away.
Cody continued, “I had promised my youngest son for a long time that I would take him to Legoland.
“So instead of booking my appointment to have surgery right away, I decided to take him there first, just in case I didn’t make it.”
She was booked for surgery in October 2014 and then had to wait two weeks before starting chemotherapy, which lasted until February 2015.
“Then I started radiation therapy, which continued until April 11, 2015, when my treatment finally ended,” she said.
Now she has been told she has been told there is ‘no evidence of illness’ or NED.
“When I started treatment, I was still working full-time as a data analyst,” Cody said.
“As a single parent, I raised my boys alone with my family thousands of miles away in Zimbabwe, Africa.
“Everything just hit me and one thing had to go, so unfortunately after all that work to get a place I had to drop out of college.
“But because I’ve wanted to do it for so long, the disappointment put me in a very negative headspace.
“It wasn’t good for me, for my kids, for my job or for the people around me.
“So I started looking for a way to improve my mood and came up with a philosophy I called ‘lipstick and heels’.”
The idea is that Cody gets up every morning, takes a shower, puts on makeup, perfume, a nice dress and heels.
She said: “I started looking forward to getting ready and looking good for the day.
“I thought to myself, ‘The world won’t wait for me.'”
Cody, who initially had six monthly checkups to make sure her disease hadn’t returned but now only needs them annually, wanted to feel as normal as possible — and as far away from cancer as possible.
She said, “I could put on my makeup, I could draw my eyebrows, I could wear my wigs to hide the hair loss, because of the treatment.”
But she ran into a wall when chemotherapy caused her eyelashes to fall out.
“I found that when you use regular false lashes, they need a row of real lashes to rest on,” she said.
“It was so hard to make them look pretty and it was obvious they were fake.
“Then I thought to myself, ‘Okay, what would I do if I wanted to wear eyelashes?’
“Having no eyelashes was the only thing that betrayed me as a cancer patient.
“So I sat at my kitchen table, just tinkering with some lashes and adjusting them to see how they could stay put.”
Cody enlisted the help of Macmillan nurses and went to online chat rooms to find out if anyone else had the same problem with false eyelashes after chemo.
“Then I discovered I wasn’t the only one looking for a solution,” she said.
“There was nothing out there, so I was determined to come up with something – although at the time I was looking for a personal solution and not a business idea.”
But as Cody’s research progressed, she realized she had a great idea for a new beauty product that could help a lot of people.
Around November 2014, a friend helped her create a rough prototype, which was sturdier than normal false lashes and had a built-in, padded ridge.
“My friend said, ‘If you offered me those lashes, I would buy them,'” she said.
“Then something clicked in my head and I realized I could have a great business idea.”
In April 2015, Cody was seriously researching ways to get a good prototype made so she could market her lashes.
First she looked at countries like Korea, China and Taiwan.
Finally, she found a company in Essex that does prototyping and decided to work with them.
Fortunately, the prototype was a success and Cody started working with lash brand Eylure to create and market her lashes.
Cody’s lashes, called C-Lash, which stands for the positive C-words associated with cancer, such as “champion” and “conviction” listed on the packaging, are now available for purchase at Boots and other outlets, as well as on Amazon. average £5.25.
She said: “They launched in Boots in 2019 and in America in January 2020.
“And I think we’ve just launched in Australia, Sweden and Norway, Finland and Poland.
“The first time I walked in and saw them in the store myself was amazing.
“I had to go into Manchester to find them and in Boots saw a woman buying a pack of three at the same time.
“I was so excited, I took pictures of them on the shelves. It was unforgettable and that feeling never goes away.”
Now, despite Covid, the company is going from strength to strength, generating gross sales of over £500,000 in 2020.
But Cody says the most satisfying part of her business is the feedback she gets from fellow cancer survivors.
She said: “People leave feedback all the time and it’s really good.
“Making a new product is one thing, but what really matters is how it is received by the people you created it for.
“For me, the positive feedback is the thing that makes this whole journey worthwhile.”
And Cody doesn’t just limit her lashes to women — she now has unisex styles that can be worn by men.
And after all the negative feelings that led her to launch her product and her concerns about how her mood swings affect her children, her 13-year-old son recently gave her another reason to celebrate.
She said: “He keeps a scrapbook of the great reviews I’ve had.
“He’s at that cool age where kids don’t want to be around their parents too much, so when I found out he was so proud of me, my heart melted. It was quite a moment.
“Both of my sons are proud of me and looking back on it, it really was my ‘lipstick and heels’ approach to cancer that made me.”
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