It’s there in the water-logged selfie she snapped in the midst of a rain-drenched kayaking trip with her husband, Sheldon.
And again in almost all of the headshots the Fashion Marketing grad had professionally taken to highlight the recent milestones along her skyrocketing career in fashion – a path that ultimately saw her land at Melanie Auld Jewelry.
It’s even in the starkly silly candid shot taken during one of the many rounds of chemotherapy treatments the 37-year-old native St. John’s Newfoundlander was forced to endure as she battled breast cancer.
It – along with the ever-present sparkle in her eyes, beaming smile on her face, and razor-sharp east-coast humour she wielded so effortlessly – was part of her armour.
“Most, if not all, of the photos of her where she’s wearing lipstick is of the LO2.”
In honour of her “beloved” friend, who passed away on July 25, 2019 nearly 19 months after her diagnosis with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, Cruickshank recently renamed da lish’s LO2 lipstick the ‘Nadine’.
“She was the most positive person you could ever meet with the worst diagnosis on the face of the planet – and, because of that, she inspired so many people,” Cruickshank said of Parsons, whom she described as a consummate cheerleader who could swear like a trucker one minute, yet break out in operatic song – and in Italian, no less – the next.
“The Nadine lipstick is a tribute to her, but it’s also a message of hope…I think what’s so important about this is that we made a promise to keep her voice alive and her message of self-advocacy out there. Nadine always said, ‘If my story could just help one person…,’ but the reality is that she has helped, I would say, thousands of women with the example she set.”
In recognition of that legacy, Cruickshank has also vowed to donate a portion of the proceeds from da lish’s newly minted Nadine lipstick to a cause close to Parsons’ heart – Rethink Breast Cancer.
As an ambassador for the Canadian charity, Parsons dedicated much of the last year and a half of her life to living out Rethink’s mission to “foster a new generation of young and influential breast cancer supporters” through “bold, relevant awareness.”
“Nadine fought her battle with fierce bravery and would encourage others to push forward, no matter what a doctor says,” Rethink’s directors said of Parsons on a crowdfunding page that, in just a few short weeks, has almost reached the halfway point towards its $25,000 goal in her name.
“If you know or feel that something is wrong, then you advocate and push until someone listens! Keep fighting until the proper tests, ultrasounds, mammograms and biopsies are run. Nadine would want you to #feelitonthefirst and was an inspiring example of #teamself.”
For Parsons, the journey towards becoming a self-advocacy champion began well in advance of her diagnosis with the particularly “aggressive” stage four metastatic breast cancer that, by the time it was discovered on Jan. 5, 2018, had already destroyed three vertebrae in her back, spread to her sternum and ribs, put holes in her sacrum, iliac crust, and moved on into her pelvis.
It started, in fact, more than a year before that in August 2016 upon her discovery of a lump in her breast – a mass that was initially shrugged off as a fibroid cyst without a mammogram, because doctors fatally assumed Parsons was “too young” for breast cancer.
“So, I have cancer. I got the raw deal (so they say). I’m a first line, stage 4 breast cancer thriver. Why start at stage 1, 2 or 3 when you can fast track all the way to 4?” Parsons joked of her diagnosis ordeal in the first of several characteristically poignant, yet humour-filled posts on her Thrive to Shine blog.
“If this blog can make you aware, if it makes you take action, if it sparks something in you to be proactive with your health, then I’ll have done what I have set out to do,” she added.
“I want to help young women, because I never knew this could happen to me AND because my age resulted in me falling through the cracks.”
Karen Aboud – a member of Toronto Film School’s Marketing for Fashion and Entertainment faculty – taught Parsons when she was a student in the program, offered at the time through the Academy of Design, and recalls her longtime friend tackling her health issues with the same fervour she attacked her homework.
“She was one of those students who walked into the room, sat at the front of the class, and elevated the whole class up to her level,” Aboud said of her star pupil, whom she also worked with at the Shopping Channel, where Parsons was an on-air style expert for Marallis ladies apparel and Arctic Expedition outerwear.
“Whatever she took on, she took on with a vengeance to succeed…It was the same with cancer. She was determined she was going to beat it and that’s all there was to it.”
Aboud recalled conversations with Parsons after her diagnosis, during which the Fashion Marketing & Merchandising grad talked about doing all the right things – eating healthier, adding more exercise to her workout regimen, seeking new treatments, and joining several supportive communities of fellow breast cancer “thrivers” like Rethink.
“She attracted so many people to her and had so many friends, because she was such a nice, caring person who’d always listen to your story,” Aboud said.
“She lived her life to the fullest and she was a real advocate for that ‘You gotta fight’ mentality, so she would talk to younger people with cancer, both at the hospital and online.”
It’s that legacy of lessons that Parsons fought so hard to impart on others in life that Cruickshank is now hoping to continue on after her death with da lish’s Nadine lipstick campaign.
“Her message comes down to self-advocacy – if you know there’s something wrong, you push for that mammogram, you push for further assistance, and if no one listens to you, you go to the emergency room and tell them there’s something absolutely wrong with you,” Cruickshank said.
“The Nadine lipstick is named after her as a tribute, yes, but most importantly, it’s about her message – it’s about how we can keep her voice alive for everyone.”
For more information about the Nadine lipstick campaign, go to http://bit.ly/nadinelipstick
To read more about Parsons’ story in her own words, visit her blog at www.nadineparsons.com/lifes-a-beautiful-journey or her guest entries on the Rethink page at www.rethinkbreastcancer.com/we-are-the-other-breast-cancer-women/