The transformative power of style is real. Taryn Pemberton, two-time breast cancer survivor under the age of 40, incorporated fashion into her self-care routine as a reminder that she was more than her diagnosis. She’s created a community as a fashion influencer based in Madison, Wisconsin, and acts as a support network for others fighting cancer.
You love experiencing life through traveling and fun fashion. What are your desert island products for a weekend get-away if you could only pack a tote?
Well you are talking to the queen of overpacking (I've paid more overweight bag fees than I'd like to admit), so the thought of only packing a tote is a real challenge! That said, my tote would be filled with a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, swimsuit, sarong, a good book, an easy dress, a great pair of earrings (I feel naked without my earrings), sunglasses, and sandals. It's a big tote, okay? Also, I have fallen in love with the Hawaiian skincare line, Leahlani, so I'd definitely bring all of my skincare essentials for that extra island glow!
We love seeing how beautifully you style your MO. What is it about the protective and transformative elements of clothing that give you confidence?
I'm a big believer that fashion/clothing/style is a wonderful way to showcase your personality. When you look good, you feel good. There is something so transformative about a well-made garment that makes you feel like you can conquer the world.
The first time I was introduced to MO, I knew instantly I loved it. I bought the Blue shirt, then called the store, had them hold my size, and I went back the next morning to purchase the White one. Just the classic style of the shirt coupled with the unique elements (like the high-low cut) make MO so special.
I love pairing something classic with something a bit unexpected. For example, the first time I wore my MO shirt, I tied it at the waist, and paired it with a cream pleated vegan leather skirt. Threw on some fun jewelry and a pair of summer wedges and went to brunch feeling my best. I also knew the MO pieces were items I would have in my wardrobe for a lifetime -- investing in good clothing is an investment in yourself, and we all could use a little more self-investment. There are so many fun ways I want to wear my MO shirts. No doubt, my next purchase will be The Shirtdress - I can't wait.
We learned that you are a two time breast cancer survivor, being diagnosed first at 32. How did you use style to embrace the present and stay positive?
I tell you what, being diagnosed with cancer really turns the volume down on things that don't matter, and makes you dial in on embracing the now. Most of "embracing the now" means letting go of things you can't control and pouring energy into yourself and the power of positive thinking. Dealing with cancer is 90% a mental game. Eliminating external stressors and tapping into things (and people) that bring/brought me joy is honestly what carried me through.
I elected to have a bilateral mastectomy which means I had both of my breasts removed to further reduce my risk of future recurrence. I also elected to have breast reconstruction. Losing my breasts was a jolt I didn't expect, but I would rather have my life than my breasts (and I have an amazing breast oncologist and reconstructive surgery team that allowed me to have both). Knowing I would likely feel very different after my surgery and treatments, my very first purchase after diagnosis was a fabulous pair of pink Aminah Abdul Jillil bow heels. I've always been a huge shoe enthusiast (I have the shoe closet to prove it!), so I bought something for myself that would make me feel like me on the days I knew it might be harder to remember I am more than my cancer. Style and fashion have the ability to transform not only your body, but your mind and spirit, too.
How has finding community and sharing your story changed your life?
I knew from the very beginning that sharing my story was going to be an important part of my journey. Being under the age of 40 (the recommended age to start mammogram screenings for breast cancer) at diagnosis, there just were not a lot of resources for young(er) breast cancer survivors. I am happy to be that resource for other men and women going through cancer (at any age), but especially those under the age of 40. People reach out to me all of the time from all over the place to talk about cancer, or to ask questions, or just to have someone listen. I am grateful to be on this side of it so that I can be here for others facing a similar path.
Another important part of beating cancer was having a strong community of people to love you through it all, and I am blessed to have had that over the years from my immediate family and my chosen family (friends). In a lot of ways, cancer gave me a new life - new energy, new focus, and a new perspective that life isn't always going to be perfect and neither am I - and that is, perhaps, the most beautiful thing of all.
Mother Oxford White, Blue and The Shirtdress are all on Taryn’s must-have list of wardrobe items that have the transformative power to boost confidence. Plus, they’re easy to care for so you can focus on the now.
Follow Taryn @the.good.schmidt for more fashion, lifestyle and travel inspo.