Faces of Breast Cancer: Vincene Parrinello

When Vincene Parrinello looked in the mirror, her reflection shocked and frightened her.

Diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she had had a double mastectomy and was in the midst of nine months of chemotherapy treatments. But the treatments prescribed to kill the cancer were taking such a serious toll on her body that she said she began to look like she was fighting a losing battle.

“I looked like my sister Annette, who was dying from breast cancer, and my mom, who’d already lost her fight against the disease,” recalled Parrinello, whose father died of brain cancer six weeks before her mother.

“I had dark circles under my eyes and my skin had lost its elasticity from the bloating and had a leathery, ashen, dry appearance,” she said. “No wonder my son used to put his fingers under my nose while I was sleeping to feel if I was breathing. I looked like I was dying. And I felt totally helpless. I knew I had to do something to make myself look like I was going to beat this — something to give us all some hope.”

She has. Nearly 10 years later, Parrinello, 42, a San Diego resident and former nurse, is the founder of Hope Aesthetics Cosmeceutical, Inc., a holistic skin care company. She’s also created The Hope For Others organization. Through this organization, she donates 10 percent of her company’s net sales toward healthcare, scholarships, housekeeping and babysitting services for cancer patients and their families.

Overcoming Roadblocks
What began as little botanical “this” mixed with a bit of fruit and vegetable “that” eventually turned into a successful company whose profits last year reached $1.4 million.

But it wasn’t easy. Once she discovered the right formula (after 92 attempts) and had the support of other cancer patients who tried it, she began to hit roadblocks.

“I wanted to take this further — to start a company. But none of the banks would loan me the money,” she said. “On paper I looked like a bad risk — I’d had breast cancer, I had a thick medical file and we were raising two sons on my husband’s teaching salary. But I just couldn’t give up. Having cancer — it’s a hard, hard time. You need to grieve, you need to cry and you need to feel the fear. And then you need to surround yourself with hope. This gave me hope — and I wanted to share it with others.”

Parrinello scraped the start-up funds together with the help of friends and family, and used the equity in their home to finance scientific double-blind testing on the cream. “I needed to see if it really was effective,” she said.

Then she secretly sold the diamond from her wedding ring to help support the family while she developed the company. In 1993, Hope Aesthetics was launched and “formula 93” became BHW Hydrating Antioxidant Moisturizer. Her product line grew, and she said that she makes time to enjoy her success.

Moving Forward
“I celebrate life,” said Parrinello, who is cancer-free but suffers from congestive heart failure, a side effect of the chemotherapy. “After each chemotherapy treatment and after each blood test, I celebrated by planting a rosebush in memory of my mom, Rose. I celebrated that another round of treatment was over, the cancer was gone and I was moving forward. I planted a total of 18 rosebushes — each one a different color. They were so beautiful and smelled so good.

“I celebrate everything — my husband, my sons, everything I’ve achieved and the person I’ve become,” she said. “I guess that’s why I’m still here — God knows I’m not finished celebrating.”

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