“I’ve been through hell and back in 2017 … in 2018, I’m not staying there.”
Christina Dunaway, 34, isn’t exaggerating with that statement.
Last January, her teenage daughter, Alexis Withers, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. A 7.5-pound tumor was pressing on and attaching to her organs, and shortly after having it removed, doctors found out that the cancer had returned – with a vengeance.
“When it came back,” Christina says, “it was stage 4 and had spread to her liver, stomach and diaphragm.”
At the same time, Christina’s mother, Kim Withers, was fighting breast cancer, and in the midst of it all, Alexis began a seven-month regimen of intense chemotherapy.
As the 16-year-old’s cancer battle ensued, thousands of people began following her journey on Facebook, praying for healing and sending positive thoughts.
Both Alexis and Christina welcomed the support. Their world was falling apart, and they cherished the online community that rallied behind them every step of the way.
Through it all, these ladies never lost their faith – but eventually, the incredible amount of stress took its toll.
“I was down and out,” Christina says. “I didn’t want to do anything, I was so depressed, and I was angry, too. A lot of times, I would just sit there and cry. But I was ashamed, so I hid it. I didn't want anyone to think I couldn't handle my own life. I felt like I had to be strong for Alexis, and my other children. At the time, I felt like being depressed wasn't an option for me, so I ignored it.”
As Alexis went through treatment, her Facebook page continued to attract many new followers – both fans and critics.
“I was accused of being a fraud,” Christina says. “Especially after Alexis was deemed cancer free. They didn’t believe that my daughter ever had cancer, and all of that definitely contributed to my depression.”
On top of all this, her hormones were raging because Christina learned she was pregnant over the summer. She gave birth to Kynlee Faith on Jan. 9.
“She’s just an amazing little baby,” the new mother adds. “She’s such a blessing.”
Unfortunately, though, the hellish events of 2017 are still producing “aftershocks” as Christina tries to find a new normal after facing such uncertainty. She wants to take control of her life again, beating the depression that brought her to her knees and facing this new year with nothing but positivity.
“I want to be home with the kids while I get back on my feet,” she explains. “But I needed something I could do to help provide financially.”
Recently, a friend introduced her to Younique Cosmetics, an online company with a mission to “uplift, empower, validate, and ultimately build self-esteem in women around the world.”
It seemed like a perfect fit.
“I have been feeling like crap about myself,” Christina says. “So makeup seemed like the perfect thing. Doing this has made me get up, put makeup on, take pictures and start to feel good about myself again. I want to be happy … I want to help encourage other women and build them up, and let them know that when you’re going through things, you don’t have to hide. I didn’t want people to think I was having a pity party, but when you have a reason to be upset, it’s OK to be down. Lord knows, we were knocked down several times last year – but you gotta get back up.”
Christina, who lives outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, knows that God has a plan for her family – and she’s hopeful that this year will be filled with blessings.
“I just want this to be a better year,” she says. “I want to put my life back together, do things for my kids, my work, and do more for myself. With everything going on last year, I had no choice but to neglect myself. In no means do I want to take away from anyone else in my family – but I went through hell – and I have to build myself back up again to be the best mom I can be.”
Christina says she came out of 2017 as a much better, more understanding person – and, despite the naysayers, she couldn’t have done it without the backing of her “Facebook family.”
“Seeing people come out and support me has been amazing,” she says. “It’s been a huge blessing, and that’s God on my side, saying 2018 is gonna be a different year for us. It has to be. I know God is like, ‘I got you, girl.’ ”
In an effort to give back, Christina has announced that, for the rest of this month, she is taking her Younique profits and donating them to a 3-year-old boy named Bentley who’s been battling leukemia.
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