Meet Mieko Rye.
A 41-year-old model with more than 20 years of experience in the fashion industry, yet recently, she couldn't force herself to look in the mirror.
"I would purposely brush my teeth, but I wouldn't take a second to look," Rye told ABC News.
The thing that caused Rye to avoid her own reflection was breast cancer. After being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, Rye embarked on a 20-week-long course of chemotherapy, during which she lost all of her hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes.
Always used to looking picture-perfect because of her job, Rye was in complete shock and denial. On top of that was the fact that she's a single mom and modeling was her way of providing for her family.
"When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I was very afraid. I quickly began assessing my chances of survival and how I would financially support me and my son since I was a model by profession," she told Upworthy.
But Rye says she later realized that fear is not going to take her anywhere.
Instead, Mieko decided to embrace her condition and do everything in her power to remain strong. So she started off with a photo shoot ...
On January 6, Rye shared an inspiring Facebook post, where she told a story about her journey through cancer and preparation for a bilateral mastectomy. The post also includes photos of Rye bravely facing the camera after her chemotherapy.
According to the model, her goal was not only to tell the world about her struggle, but also to inspire other women to love themselves the way they deserve to be loved:
"I'm going to own this. And I want other women to be inspired and own it as well. It's more about the inner beauty and when that shines through, you're just as beautiful. You haven't lost anything. You've gained it," she says.
Read the transcript of Rye's full message below:
"When I first began my career as a model 20 years ago, I did not embody the American concept of beauty," she begins her story.
"[...] I was told I was too dark, too light, too curvy, or that my hair was too dry, too curly, or too big. No makeup artist could match my skin tone because they never carried around a proper foundation for women of color.
Then the curvy Brazilian girls took over the fashion industry, God bless them, and my career took off. I had a niche. Being "exotic" was cool. Being "ambiguous" was cool. Being "ethnic" was cool. Being "brown" was cool.
Now, many of the celebrated parts of a woman that our culture defines as beauty I no longer have ... Eyebrows, hair, eyelashes, and soon — my breasts.
Chemotherapy wreaks havoc on your body slowly. My sum of parts once interconnected and harmonious are now dissembled and out of tune."
"It's truly humbling to go from traveling and working internationally to being confined to my bed."
"[...] Every day is a challenge when simple pleasures such as eating, going for a walk, or carrying my child in my arms escape me. I was on the sidelines as I could no longer participate in the daily goings on of life.
With cancer comes destruction. However, it has also provided me with the opportunity to rebuild from the inside out. I have shed what is no longer necessary and quite honestly, impeded my growth.
Being alive is essentially a very lonely proposition and I'm okay with this ... Because I absolutely love and enjoy the woman I've become. So when I say I am alone, I mean free of a man, career, role, or title I may have clung to in the past to define myself. My happiness does not depend on the love, reassurance, loyalty, or approval of another."