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Woman uses costumes to stay positive through cancer treatments, inspire others

Woman uses costumes to stay positive during cancer
Woman uses costumes to stay positive during cancer treatment 01:42

Bethany Pendergrass is a real-life G.I. Jane, and Marilyn Monroe, and Marge Simpson — at least on Instagram. Pendergrass doesn't just dress up like pop culture icons to be funny, she does it to stay positive during what may be the most difficult time of her life — going through cancer treatment.

The New Mexico woman was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2018, and wanted to find a unique way to chronicle her treatment. When she cut her hair into a pixie cut in preparation for chemo, a friend noticed she resembled a very famous nun-turned-nanny. "A friend told me I looked like Fräulein Maria from Sound of Music," Pendergrass told CBS News. "So as a joke, I took a picture of myself, placed it next to a picture of Maria from Sound of Music and sent it to my friend."

This joke sparked an idea. "Through research, I had learned that a number of individuals impacted by cancer recommended keeping a journal," she said. "I knew I didn't want to keep just any journal. I wanted a clever way to document my journey — to take a challenging experience and turn it into something positive, and this was it."

She started dressing up in different costumes and posting them on Instagram with inspirational messages. "My pictures keep me focused on the positive. They give me an outlet to share my experiences and even to work through the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis," Pendergrass said. 

Pendergrass usually pairs each photo with a quote from the iconic person she is emulating. "When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by," she wrote for her Charlie Chaplin photo. "I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring," she chose as her David Bowie quote.

View this post on Instagram

Week 41: "If you feel so bad about yourself there’s always things you can do to feel better." Marge, The Simpsons We all have bad days. Days when we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. Days when we don’t like our job. Days when we don’t feel well. Days when we feel like we’ve accomplished nothing. Days when we miss someone we love. Days when we don’t want to get out of bed. Days when we feel like we’ve been dealt an unfair hand. Just, those plain ol’ days when we feel bad about ourselves. I get it. It happens. Maybe we all need a little time to feel sorry for ourselves, but I’ve also learned that it doesn’t help. I’ve learned that while I can’t change my situation—the hand I’ve been dealt—I can do things to feel better about it. I can continue to share my story and hear other’s stories. I can remind myself that I am not alone and that others are fighting battles far more difficult that my own. Even better than that, I can go out of my way to do nice things for others—to smile, share a compliment or buy someone lunch. It’s simple and it works. Over and over again, it works. As the quote goes, “Kindness can make a bad day good, and a good day better.” #breastcancer #susangkomen #StandUpToCancer #breastcancersurvivor #bethstrong

A post shared by Beth Bagwell Pendergrass (@instabeth505) on

She has so far dressed up like Buddy the Elf, Miss Piggy, Barbara Streisand, Zoolander, Eleven from "Stranger Things," Mrs. Doubtfire, and many more characters. "The pictures and words I write are reminders to me," she said. "I will be able to look back on them and remember that I am a strong person — I am a survivor and a fighter."

Pendergrass said she will wrap up chemotherapy this summer and then move on to radiation. She will continue to inspire others through her strength, beauty, and sense of humor on Instagram. 

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