Breast cancer. It is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with approximately 57 Australians diagnosed per day and more than 20,000 Australians per year.

It attacks your hair, skin, breasts, fertility; literally stripping away the very fabric of your femininity, what makes you feel woman.

Jo Francis is making a difference for thousands of women in battle with their boobs through Defining Beauty, helping them feel beautiful, helping them feel woman and supporting them through it all; if anyone knows what it’s like, what they are going through, it’s Jo.

“I am a Sale girl, and when I finished high school, I moved to Melbourne and went to uni,” she said.

“I first got diagnosed with breast cancer at age 26.”

In 2001, Jo Francis, a young, single woman who had just established a life and career in Melbourne, discovered a lump in her breast; it was a Grade 3 cancer.

“I underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy back then,” she explained.

“I was very young going through that, one of the youngest they had known at that time.”

After bad days, very bad days and very, very bad days, Jo finally started to have good days. Very good days. Great days!

Jo was in remission.

Seventeen years passed; Jo had met and married her husband Doug Francis, established her own beauty business and had two beautiful little girls, Ella and Charlotte.

Life was grand. Then it wasn’t.

“My two little girls were two and four years old at the time when I was diagnosed again with breast cancer at the age of 42,” she said.

Jo and her husband Doug Francis with their two girls, Ella and Charlotte. Photo supplied.

“My cousin from here, Lisa, had breast cancer as well.

“She was going for a night out, driving from Sale to Melbourne and was feeling really yucky.

“I said to Lisa, come down, I will tizzy you up, and I did; I did her hair, I did her makeup, we had a really good chat.

“She had felt terrible when she walked in, but on her way out, she took one look at herself and said, ‘wow, I just feel beautiful.’

“It wasn’t about what I made her look like, it was how I made her feel, and that is when Defining Beauty was born.”

After Jo underwent a double mastectomy in December 2017, the two-time breast cancer survivor set to work on making Defining Beauty Through Breast Cancer not just a dream but a reality.

Defining Beauty Through Breast Cancer was officially launched in 2019, providing young women recently diagnosed with breast cancer with Defining Beauty Care Packs and delivering workshops for women who have had breast cancer or are undergoing active treatments.

Jo Francis speaking at Defining Beauty Through Breast Cancer launch.
Jo Francis at the official Defining Beauty Through Breast Cancer Launch.

Filled with all-natural Australian and skin care products, earrings, facecloths, gratitude journals, tips and tricks, Defining Beauty Care Packs are designed by those who know how to support women through breast cancer treatments and leave them feeling empowered.

“When you are in such a vulnerable state, and the doctors are doing what they’re doing, the surgeons are doing what they’re doing, the breast care nurses are doing what they’re doing, sometimes you just need something for you,” Jo said.

“Everything in the packs has been tried and tested by women who have had breast cancer before, so it is from women who really get it.

“It’s a gentle reminder that you are not alone.”

Defining Beauty Care Packs
Defining Beauty Care Pack. Supplied.

Defining Beauty workshops bring women together in a safe and friendly environment to uplift, inform and empower through a challenging time, providing practical guidance around emotional and mental wellbeing during and after breast cancer.

Since moving home to Sale at the start of the pandemic, Jo has continued to grow Defining Beauty, supporting more and more young women whose lives have been ravished by breast cancer, forced to face their mortality.

On Saturday, September 3, Defining Beauty is hosting Black or Bling Charity Night at Portside Food + Wine in support of their new mentor program, Boozom Buddies.

Defining Beauty Care Packs
Jo knows what it is like going through breast cancer, what it is like to be alone, which is why she has Defining Beauty Care Packs donors attach their photos along with a note of empowerment to the pack going to another young woman recently diagnosed. Photo supplied.

“The Boozom Buddies program that we are promoting has started, and we have already got 20 mentors and have married up 12 buddies,” Jo said.

“On the night, we will have a mentor and buddy speak about the program and how it has helped, and local breast care nurse Dee will also be talking to let people know she is here if anybody needs that help.

“It is going to be a great night; there will be food, wine, a photo booth, we’ve got a DJ from Melbourne coming down for the event.

“Black or Bling is an opportunity for anyone in the Sale community – couples, friends or family – to get glammed up for a fabulous, fun night and enjoy great food, great wine, have a boogie and support Defining Beauty’s new mentorship program Boozum Buddies; supporting young women with breast cancer.”

Black or Bling starts at 6pm, Saturday, September 3 at Portside Food + Wine, with the night wrapping up at 10pm.

Tickets are $65 a head and are on sale here.

For more information about Black or Bling Charity Night, the Boozom Buddies program, or Defining Beauty Through Breast Cancer, head to their Facebook page or website.