Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chamein Canton

entered this world big from the beginning. I weighed in a few ounces shy of nine pounds and then I spent the rest of my life trying to live down a tiny three lettered word 'big'. I hated being the big girl. At one point in my life I had so much black in my closet I thought I'd hear the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader at any minute. Despite the fact that the average woman in the United States wears a size 14, finding fashionable clothing was like searching for a fountain in the desert. Many of the clothes available were unattractive to say the least. It was like the world said well you're fat anyway so here are some elastic waistbands and shapeless tents, cover up. Looking back now I realize my body was smoking back then but the fact was I was bigger than most of the girls I went to high school with, even though I had a nice body. However I thought at 5'8 I was supposed to be 115 pounds despite the fact I was the second to shortest woman in my family. I spent so much of my teenage years hating my body and feeling bad about myself that I didn't know I was beautiful. We live in a country where bigger is generally better. People don't usually want a small raise for their hard work, they want a big raise. When it's time to buy a home or do some improvements most people go bigger. I've never heard Pat Sajak say let's spin the slim wheel and contestants don't generally shout "Little Money!" when they spin the wheel. Yet the pursuit of the 'ideal thin' body remained a focus for me. Then my life changed. I was diagnosed with uterine cancer at 23 years old. I underwent six years of chemo, biopsies and more surgical procedures than I'd like to remember. To top everything off I was a divorced working mother and sole parental supporter of my sons, so I spent many days going from chemo in the morning straight to work with a supply of, Compazine, airsickness bags, crackers, ginger ale and a very understanding boss. I can't tell you how many days I spent lying on the bathroom floor green with nausea wondering how on earth anyone could want to make themselves sick just so they won't gain weight. For the first time in my life I wasn't focused on losing something, I was focused on gaining. I wanted more minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years to spend with my children. I was desperate to see my toddler sons grow up and to make it to my 30th birthday. It took a diagnosis of cancer to make me realize what truly counted in life and it wasn't size; it's love. However through chemo I met couples going through the depths of illness together and the love they showed one another touched me in the deepest part of my soul. It was a real testament to for better or for worse. It was then I decided to forget my obsession with size. As a result of cancer I lost a lot. In 1995 I had a hysterectomy after battling the disease in my uterus for years. Yet in a strange way I'm thankful for the lesson having a catastrophic disease taught me. I gained a new respect for life, refocused my life and I followed my dream to become a wedding planner. Still I wanted to bring the insight I learned to my clients so I made it my mission to communicate to brides to be that losing weight was not the key to happiness or being a beautiful bride. The key to feeling and looking beautiful begins with self love; a love that includes body acceptance, setting realistic goals for your body and living a healthy lifestyle, which is how Down That Aisle In Style A Wedding Guide For Full Figured Women, my first foray into writing for full figured women, was born so to speak. I was tired of listening to women berate themselves as second class brides for not being an ideal size, although I understood where they were coming from. Up until about 10 years ago the bridal industry was the last bastion of size discrimination with most brides over a size 12 feeling as if they'd be exiled to ugly gown island and had to do the walk of shame to the back of the bridal salon to find their size. During the research stage of the book I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis I went into a state of denial. MS has no cure and I just could not and would not deal with it. So I went on to live my life. I worked full-time and pursued my business on the weekends. Whenever a symptom appeared I would just ignore it. Then in 1998 a major episode left me in a wheelchair for several months and I was forced to deal with MS head on. Being in the wheelchair gave me time to redirect my energy again. I was out of the wheelchair within six months and ready to take on the world. I also felt that I could be a better mother and set an example on how to find triumph in difficult situations. To my surprise and delight I was named MS Mother of The Year in 2002 four years after my initial diagnosis as a result of an essay my sons wrote about me. Down That Aisle In Style was nominated for Foreword’s Book of the Year 2007 and although I didn’t win I had the chance to bring full figured brides to the fore on The Insider/Entertainment Tonight, Get Married with David Tutera, NBC Today in New York and Eyewitness News Sunday Morning, Once the bridal book was out I decided to do more to take plus sizes from co-starring roles in romance novels to center stage. My novels feature full figured female characters as the object of desire and not just the jolly chubby friend. In Not His Type I stepped into an arena where skinny women generally rule, that of professional sports. Most high profile athletes are expected to date models, actresses, beauty queens and thin women in general as they are held out as the standard of beauty. I decided to flip the script (a saying courtesy of my twin 21 year old sons) and have a high profile baseball player fall for an average plus size woman, hence the title Not His Type. In April of 2008 I was honored to receive the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best African American romance. In June Genesis released Bliss Inc. all about the May-Indian Summer romance between a full figured workaholic wedding planner and the brother of the groom. The More Things Change December 2008 Follow Up to Not His Type. Things aren’t so easy when Cathy and Marcus head down the aisle. I'm thankful to say that I've been cancer free for almost 14 years and I've been able to live successfully with multiple sclerosis for the past 13 years. It's not easy but I embrace every day. I’m thankful for life and the opportunities I’ve had. I only hope that through my fiction I’m able to pay it forward to make a better day for real women of all sizes and shapes. Chamein Canton Achievements Cancer survivor (Uterine) 14 years Living with Multiple Sclerosis 13 years MS Mother of The Year 2002 Not His Type Romantic Times Book Reviewers Choice Award winner for Best African American Romance Literary Agent Contributing wedding writer for Wedding Dresses magazine Columnist for Venus Divas and Elegant Plus Current special occasions editor for More Beautiful Magazine

1 comment:

Chamein said...

Thanks so much for allowing me to be a part of this blog. You have so many special womenI feel honored. Thanks again