We Had a Chat With Badass Cancer Survivor, Silje Axelsen!
As the summer season comes to an end, many of us forget the importance of protecting our skin from the sun. I had a chat with Silje Axelsen, a 28 year old living in Kristiansand. In 2016 she was diagnosed with melanoma cancer, stage 5. In May this year, Axelsen was the front figure of the Norwegian Cancer Society’s new campaign called “Bare blid” (Directly translated to “Only Happy” and refers to the Norwegian solariums called “Tan & Happy”.) Through this campaign they want to raise awareness that overly exaggerated tanning, - especially sunburns and the use of solariums - increase the chance of getting melanoma cancer. With us, she shares how fighting cancer have changed her life, and why she’s so passionate about spreading the message of our amazing skin and why we should care for it as best as we possibly can.
As mentioned, you are the front figure of "Bare Blid". Can you tell us more about this?
The Norwegian Cancer Society contacted me this winter, after they discovered me on Instagram and saw that I’ve had melanoma cancer and was open about it. They wanted me to be the face of a skin cancer prevention campaign. After some meetings in Oslo, #bareblid was created. The focus of the campaign is to prevent skin cancer (especially among young people), which can easily be done by using high SPF sunscreen, taking breaks from the sun and not using solarium. You don't have to be tan to be happy! The campaign was launched in May, and went beyond all expectation and there is no doubt that it has saved lives. I can’t count all the DMs I have received on Instagram from girls who say they have now stopped using solarium and have bought a good sunscreen. That’s amazing!
Since being diagnosed with melanoma cancer in 2016, how has your fight against cancer been?
My battle against cancer have been tough, both physically and mentally. Hearing the words "you have cancer" does something to one, and thoughts of death come up quickly. I’ve had two major cancer surgeries and my body is full of scars. In addition, I’ve had monthly check ups and scans for almost three years. In a way, you’re never done with having cancer, cause you always have to go to check-ups. However, this whole journey I've been focusing on getting healthy and doing things that I know are good for me. For example, I’ve not been away from work, except during surgery and recovery. I’ve traveled, been with friends, family, my boyfriend and worked out. I know for myself that I'm not better off lying at home eating chips. "Happiness is a choice" is a saying I often think about, and I try to choose joy every day.
What's the most important thing you’ve learned from fighting cancer?
It may sound a little cliché, but I've learned that you have to live every day as if it's your last. You only have one life and you never know what could happen. That's why I try to do good things every day, both for myself and for others. Every day I have to make a choice: Should I lie down and cry, or should I choose laughter? As a rule, I choose to laugh. Because not only do I have to survive, I have to live.
As autumn is arriving soon, many of us forget the importance and discipline of using sunscreen like we did on those hot summer days. Can you share with us your best advice for how to take care of our skin - during all four seasons?
My best tip is to buy a good facial cream that you can use all year round, which contains sun protection factor (preferably spf 50). There are also some makeup products that have sun factor in them, which means you’re always "slightly" protected for UVA and UVB radiation.
Which sunscreen is your favorite?
My favorite is from Kiehl’s, and you can buy it here! It’s for facial use and is thin, silky and matte. It doesn’t give you unclean skin and it doesn’t feel like wearing sunscreen. It can be used underneath makeup, all year around.
In your opinion, what’s true beauty?
For me, true beauty is to be who you are! That’s why #bareblid is so important to me, because the campaign is also about standing against the beauty pressure in our society. Bloggers, influencers, and maybe even friends can sometimes constantly increase the pressure of being sun kissed, having white teeth and a slim body with a Kardashian booty. You’re beautiful just the way you are!
What would you like to tell your 16-year old self?
“Don’t take solarium, and definitely not put on that sun oil just to get a better tan!” (and maybe give me a little smack on the cheek).
How do you practice self love?
As I wrote earlier, I try to make choices that I know are good for me. I know I'm better off working, spending time with my friend, boyfriend, traveling, exercising and doing things that makes me happy. I also give myself love by having some time just by myself, where I can breathe and sort my thoughts, preferably with a face mask and a little Beyoncé playing in the background.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In 5 years, I hope that I am still alive and well. That I have a safe life with my man and maybe children. I hope that #bareblid has led to the banning of solariums in Norway and that Norway is no longer a world leader in cases of melanoma cancer.
All photos are Silje’s own and published with her permission.
(This post is not written in collaboration with the Norwegian Cancer Society, we just find this cause extremely important!)
Written by Anine Netland Hulløen