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A Woman So Optimistic, She Found a Silver Lining in a Brain Tumor

Indie Lee, the founder of the eponymous skincare line, believes having the right attitude and taking care of her mental health ultimately saved her life.

By Caitlin Abber

   

When Indie Lee, the founder of the skincare line that bears her name, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008, her doctors gave her about six months to live. “I was like, ‘Nope, that’s not going to happen,’” says Indie. “I don’t know what this is, but nope, that’s not going to happen.”

Indie was able to find a doctor who was willing to operate on her brain, but there was a 50% chance she would not wake up. “I told the doctor I didn’t care. I was dying anyway.” The first thing the doctor said when she (thankfully) did wake up was that they had gotten everything. Then, he welcomed her to the rest of your life.

This experience was the genesis of Indie’s skincare line. Her doctors speculated that her tumor—which wasn’t cancer—was caused by years of toxic chemicals found in makeup and other skincare products. For Indie, who always ate clean (fresh produce straight out of her own greenhouse, in fact) and took care of herself, the incident  was a call to action. She knew that she had to help other women make better choices about what they put on their skin. “I really want to educate and empower others to live the best versions of their lives—whatever that looks like for them—because I was learning the hard way that you just don’t know how long you have.”

Below, Indie shares how her positive attitude shaped not only her medical outcome, but also her outlook on beauty, mental health, and her ability to get through the Covid-19 pandemic with a smile on her face.

I didn’t call anybody when I first found out about the tumor, because I really didn’t know what it was about. But it was a powerful day, because in that 15 minutes between home and the doctor’s office, I realized that for 37 years up until that point, I was one of those people who was checking the boxes of what she thought she needed to accomplish in her life and had forgotten to actually live it. I swore that this was happening for a reason. I didn’t know what it was, but something incredibly powerful came out of it. By the time I got to the doctor, I was in a great place. I just said, ‘Okay, what do we do?’

I truly believe that we all live in choice, and we have an opportunity to decide how we’re going to handle things. I said to myself, ‘Well, I don’t have that much time left. I’m going to choose joy. I’m going to spend every moment in joy.’ I truly believe, even in our darkest moments, we have power over our thoughts. Thoughts become beliefs, and beliefs become your life, and I was going to choose a different way.

My positive thinking was not a result of therapy. For me, therapy during the time of my diagnosis was about handling the fact that I was dying and leaving behind my children, or the fact that my son is dyslexic and I wanted to help him. But it was never about being positive. My therapist once said, ‘I’ve never met anybody who’s just so in touch with themselves and willing to deep dive into the work.’ And I told him, ‘This is not a dress rehearsal. Let’s do it.’

When you go on an airplane, you’re told to put on your oxygen mask before you help someone else. There’s a reason you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. I believe that the ritual of taking care of yourself—whether it’s dry brushing or gua sha or just simply your facial care ritual of removing your makeup, doing a face mask, cleaning your makeup brushes—all those things play a part in your own mental health, because you’re taking the time to take care of yourself. And you need to be mindful throughout. Self-love is not the same as self-care, but one cannot exist without the other.

Every Sunday I take a nap, I clean my makeup brushes, and if I can get in a nice soak in the tub, I do that. And you know what? I’ve passed that onto my kids. They love ‘Self-Care Sundays.’ If I spend 20 minutes on myself, I’m a far better mother, founder, friend—all those things. That’s not selfish. That is self-care, and in some ways it’s self-preservation.

Beauty is being confident. It’s being comfortable and accepting ourselves in our own skin. I think a smile on anybody is beautiful. I don’t think beauty is necessarily an exterior thing. I believe it’s an inside job. And to get there, you need to make sure you’re surrounding yourself with people who are going to raise you up. I think that’s really important. 

Over the last year, I was able to find incredible silver linings in what we now call this ‘great pause.’ My son came home from college in March of last year and stayed until August. I would have never had that time with him otherwise. He’s in his junior year now, and I never expected him to be home and for us to basically be sequestered together and have that time back—that precious, precious time of really just enjoying each other. My relationship with my daughters is closer than ever as well, because we’ve been home, and we’ve had to rely on one another for entertainment. We’re learning to cook together, and we’re watching movies, and there are so many wonderful things as a result of this time. That doesn’t mean that my family hasn’t been affected financially. Yes, that’s a reality for me. But I’m choosing to focus on the positive and realize that though things that have been very difficult, we’ve gotten through it together as a family.”

Caitlin Abber

Written By

Caitlin Abber

Caitlin Abber is the Brand Editor at M.M. LaFleur, and an award-winning writer and content creator. Over the last decade she has held senior editorial positions at MTV, Women's Health, Public Radio International, and Bustle, and has bylines at InStyle and OprahMag.com.

See more of Caitlin's articles

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