From cancer to cosmetics

The odds were stacked against me.

After graduating from Oxford and with only a few weeks before my final law school exams, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. An aggressive blood cancer with only a 20% survival rate.

I saw my physical body wither, my emotional body tested to its limits and my positive mindset stretched well beyond my comfort zone.

On this World Health Day, I’ll share my health journey and why it’s now central to the business that I’ve since founded.

My cancer diagnosis was dramatic; on 1st February 2012, I was hospitalised immediately and treatment started the next day. Over the months that followed, I had multiple rounds of chemotherapy, total body irradiation and a life-saving stem cell transplant from my sister, Sarah.

I spent 6-8 weeks at a time in my hospital room, in protective isolation, battling for my life. With radical acceptance of my new reality, I quickly learned that everything is permanently temporary. I journaled to process my thoughts, I stuck posters on my wall of New York and the Caribbean to remind myself of the world beyond the bare white walls, and reinforced positive affirmations to “keep strong”, saying this out loud as my hair started to fall out.

With total determination, I returned to law school two years later and was able to begin my career as a lawyer in London. Intent on picking up where I’d left off, I balanced out-patient hospital appointments with my job. So much time in hospital had made me even more motivated to live the life I had dreamed of.

I spent time working in New York and later moved to the British Virgin Islands, the most beautiful place I’ve been to. But life as a lawyer in paradise ended abruptly in September 2017 by the onslaught of Hurricane Irma, a terrifying category 5 hurricane, that tore through the house I was sheltering in and left me stranded for days without any contact to the outside world. After eventually being rescued and evacuated, it was the perfect storm which brought me back to the UK.

It was then that me and my sister took a huge leap of faith, leaving our corporate jobs behind and launched By Sarah London, the digital-first skincare brand for stressed, sensitive skin.

Sarah had initially developed skincare for me when I was in hospital; my skin became so fragile, sensitive and reactive after such intensive treatment. With my lived experience of the emotional and physical toll skin concerns have, we launched our business with innovative formulations which have since become our award-winning collection. Our skincare has been featured on ITV’s This Morning and in Vogue, The Times and The Telegraph, with celebrity fans including Deliciously Ella and Trinny Woodall.

I never could have imagined that the skincare Sarah first developed to help my sensitive skin would now be helping so many thousands of people. I’m so touched by the transformative stories we receive every day from our customers, and reminded of the deep value of connection that is gained in sharing our own vulnerabilities.

That’s my biggest lesson: the greater the awareness you have of how you’re really feeling, the closer you become to who you’re meant to be.

This has been the chapter of my life I never saw coming and yet, my personal mantra continues to ring true this World Health Day, and always: Live life as if everything is rigged in your favour.

Enjoy your personal 25% discount at bysarahlondon.com with HERTFORD25. (Expires 30 April, excludes bundles).

Lauren Murrell (Geography, 2006) is Co-Founder and CEO at By Sarah London.


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