Innovate UK Women in Innovation 2022/2023 Applicants

Learning to dance in the rain - Cody Gapare's guest blog

Today we welcome a guest blog by Codilia Gapare - Inspirational creator of the C-Lash, the first false lash designed for women with no lashes due to chemotherapy treatment.

 

It’s 01:30hrs in the morning and I have just spent the past 2 hours writing about my treatment from start to finish. Then I realised, the reason I decided to write about my journey is not to moan about the things that I could not change, or things that I had no control over, but things that taught me valuable lessons. So, I have binned the narration about hospital visits and sleepless nights due to a combination of steroids and aching bones. Instead I am going to tell you what I did when I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, literally! 

I was getting more and more ill and I was spending days on end in bed, unable to eat because of nausea, unable to sleep because I was pumped full of steroids and unable to get comfortable because chemotherapy was making my bones ache. I told my friend once that it felt like thousands of little men with sledge hammers, hammering away non-stop. This was so relentless that on the days that I felt a little better all I wanted to do was to dress up and get out of the house. I also decided to go into work on the days that I was able. There were 2 reasons for this, 1) I need the money. I was a single mother with 2 boys to look after. 2) Everyone at work treated me exactly like they did before my illness, so I felt like I could leave the Cancer Cody in bed at home on those days. 

My boss had been brilliant from the time he found out about my lump. He allowed me to work from home and made it clear I should only come into work if I felt up to it. I do not know how I would have coped during this time if I had been working for a different company! 

It was this need to get out and feel normal that made me come up with the idea of Lipstick and Heels. Lipstick and Heels my coping mechanism. It meant, no matter how bad I was feeling I would try and get out of bed, shower dress up and put on my lipstick and heels. The more I did this, the better I felt. Soon I would spend my evening planning my next outfit instead of concentrating on the ‘little hammering men’.  

Because I did not want people to know that I had cancer, hair and makeup had to be perfect. Once my hair, lashes and eyebrows fell out (My hair fell out overnight on the 1st of November), looking ‘normal’ became a challenge. Wigs were easy, but lashes and eyebrows were not to so easy to disguise. I guess it was this frustration that gave me a business idea. What if there was an eyelash that was easy for anyone without existing eyelashes to wear? What if I could come up with this lash that would stay in place all day and does not droop? What if….? 

What if.., gave me a new lease of life! On the days when I was too ill to go to work, I was no longer lying there looking at the ceiling. Instead I was making sketches of my idea and drafting business plans. I had never run a business before and I had not worked in the industry that I was thinking of going into but that did not matter to me. Had I not just survived 5 months fighting cancer? What did I have to lose?  

On days when I was well enough to go into work, I would come home after work and go on Google to research everything from bringing a new product to market, to how to get a prototype made, to patents and trademarks. Any other time the enormity of what I was taking on would have scared me into behaving myself, but this was not any other time. This was a time where anything that helped me escape was more than welcome. I started researching my client base and writing to anyone who I thought had clout in the industry. I cannot tell you how many times I had doors shut in my face. Or have people look at me with pity before telling me that the reason my invention was not on the market was because it was not needed. None of these things deterred me because I had done my research and I knew what I was talking about and besides for me this was more than a business idea, it was a new lease of life.  

I am not saying you have to start a business or dress up every night while going through treatment, everyone is different. I just know that for me, focusing on something other than the cancer allowed me to take back my life. This is not to say that I was not scared, or the pain was not as bad, it only meant that I gave myself choices at a time when there seemed to be none. So, do the things that you love, visit places, make memories and be selfish. If friends and relatives offer to help, accept it. There is nothing strong or enlightened about trying to fight cancer alone, it is a tough battle and you will need all the help you can get. My game-plan was lipstick and heels, what will be yours? 

See more from Cody here - Learning to dance in the rain

C-Lash by Cody on Instagram

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