Written by Dahlia Merlo on 19.09.17

Nalie Agustin was diagnosed with cancer 4 years ago. For most 20-something year olds, that would equal life shattering, life-stopping news. But to Nalie, it became an opportunity to grow and to help others go through their own battles. From blog posts, vlogs, and her active and inspiring social media, Nalie has touched the lives of people all over the world. She started the incredible movement Feel it on the First, encouraging women to do self breast exams the first of every month in order to increase early detection. She invites her followers (and everyone) to post a selfie feeling yourself and to tag your girlfriends to do the same to remind everyone that it’s time for your monthly self check-up.

But that’s not all Nalie’s been doing. Despite being re-diagnosed with cancer, she’s still hustling! Catch her this week at her first LIVE show at Theatre St James for The Nalie Show Live, and feel her raw and incredible energy for yourself. We had the honour of meeting this resilient woman and got the chance to talk to her about her challenging journey and her plans for the future.

You were diagnosed with Stage 2B Breast Cancer at the tender age of 24, 4 years ago. While going through so much pain, confusion, and no doubt fear, what motivated you to start blogging about your experiences? Other than the desire to inspire and raise awareness, what was your AHA! moment?

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Even before I knew it was going to inspire and help out people, I have to be super honest, I did it for myself, because it was my way of expressing myself and letting it all out, documenting it and remembering it. It was like a movie. It was so surreal; it seemed like an out of body experience. I started filming, documenting, and writing it as a form of therapy for myself, to let it all out, and to make sure I don’t forget. It was only when I published it that I realized the effect it was having on people. These are things you realize when you’re being authentic and vulnerable.

Your blogs and vlogs are very candid, raw, and emotional. Do you ever find it difficult to post something that lays you out bare? That doesn’t hold back at all? What gives you the strength to go public with your most challenging moments?

Definitely I won’t pretend it’s not difficult. It is, but I think it’s important to be real, and I think that’s what was lacking. As soon as I knew I was inspiring and helping other people, I knew it was my duty to provide what was lacking online: the true raw experience about living with cancer.

You were diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer in the lungs this year. How has this cancer journey been different from the first time?

Completely different, because the first time around I knew nothing about it. Ignorance is bliss, riding the wave and taking it one step at a time. When you don’t know too many details you go with the flow and deal with it when it happens. This time around, I knew exactly what to expect, and this time the doctor looked me in the eye and told me it’s incurable. Now it’s something that I have to live with the rest of my life. I try not to look but statistics aren’t promising. But I want to change that. Deep down inside, I know that, regardless of what the chances of beating this cancer is, I have a gut feeling that I can beat this.

What would you say has been the toughest day or series of days in your entire cancer journey?

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Being re-diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in the lungs, hearing that, and having the doctor announce that in front of my mom, dad, brothers, and boyfriend, and then seeing the look on their faces and being told that it’s an incurable disease: to me, that equaled death. Every single tribute post online was for metastatic breast cancer (aside: metastatic means the cancer has spread.). All this to say that when I heard that word, I associated it with “this is the end.” Definitely the hardest part. I’m the most positive person and that was the biggest slap in the face. What did I do wrong? How is this happening? How is it worse than before? And then the fact that everyone following my blog would have to hear this news. I was the beacon of hope; I was their role model. There was the pressure to tell people I failed. It’s back, and it’s worse.

Who are your top supporters and how do they contribute to your overall well-being?

#1: My boyfriend Vee, because he wasn’t even my boyfriend before. He was just a friend who wanted to date me, but I wasn’t ready until I got diagnosed and he stood by me the entire time and made me realize I don’t need anything else. Through sickness and in health, and he really was. He helps with everything I do and makes me feel beautiful, feel normal. Despite losing my hair and my body changing, he made me feel beautiful every day.

#2: My family, because they are there for me no matter what. It’s always a party during treatments and I was never alone. My mom, dad, and brothers: they feed me, they bathe me (lol!). They’re just there all the time no matter what I need.

#3: My best friends make me feel like nothing’s changed and they make me feel like same old Nalie, which is crucial.

#4: #NaliesArmy: everyone who has ever supported me online throughout my social media platforms.

What’s the most recent update on your cancer journey? We know that you’re done with chemo, so what are you doing now? We all want good news!

Recent scans show that the lymph nodules are decreasing. And I had nodules all over my lungs, so the fact that it’s decreasing and getting smaller is fantastic news. Stage 4 is a progression and usually it just keeps spreading. I’m very happy and grateful. I’m still on pills to help things stabilize. It’s considered a chronic illness at this point. But I can beat it. I’ve heard of people who have.

You started #feelitonthefirst over a year ago and it has nearly 4k posts so far. Did you imagine it becoming such a huge movement? Are you happy with the results?

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Yeah definitely super happy and I love how when it’s the first of the month, people remind me to post. Oh my gosh I need to post and they’re faster than I am. People in Australia post before me! My goal was for it to become an automatic part of people’s lives. I don’t even want to be associated with it anymore! The first of the month becomes a routine. It’s very important to make people not repeat the mistakes I made by procrastinating, not knowing, and ignoring that something was wrong. I want it to get bigger because I believe it’s something that will save the most lives because early detection is key to survival. The faster you find it, the more likely you can treat it. My biggest mistake was having waited too long.

Even though you lost your hair, you never stopped looking fabulous with those amazing headscarves (even though you totally owned the shaved head). Will there ever be a Nalie headscarf collection?

Yes, there will be! It’s actually in the works, so stay tuned.

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How did you decide to start the Nalie Show on your YouTube channel? And how do you pick your many wonderful guests?

Having shared my cancer journey online, I realized that I was inspiring and helping a lot of women with cancer, but then I realized, even more, with the hundreds of emails I receive every day, that I was also inspiring people without cancer with all types of life obstacles. They can relate to my cancer journey without having an illness. It’s the motivation to overcome anything. No matter what it is, we all have the same feelings when something is bothering us, the same nauseating feeling, whether it’s a divorce, heart break, or being told you have stage 4 cancer. With that in mind, I wanted to transcend my story, and I had this gift with connecting with people and communicating. I didn’t have to just be the cancer blogger who shares tips and tricks, but I could use my gift and do something I’ve always wanted to do. My biggest inspiration is Ellen. I can use my gift and do something I love to do to help and inspire others.

And now the Nalie Show has expanded to the Nalie Show Live! Congratulations! The next Ellen Degeneres? #getnalieonellen What motivated you to set your show on the big stage?

For one, I was looking for a way to celebrate my great scan results. Two, I realized I’ve been looking for a way to gather people together. I’m such a people person and everything I do is online and through videos. People always tell me I have this energy and people feel recharged when they’re around me, and I’ve been dreaming of sharing that with Nalie’s army. I was also looking for a way to make all my dreams come true in that “no time to waste” phase in my life. You would think that getting cancer in my 20s would put a halt on my career, but I tried to flip that script. This was a way to jumpstart my dream career. Finally, I was looking for a way to give back. I wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the progression of cancer research. I wanted to raise funds for metastatic breast cancer research. Boom! Take all those reasons and turn it into the Nalie Show Live. All the stories that I’ve been sharing with thousands of people online, I now get to share them on stage.

Tell us about what to expect at TNSL?

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My special guests include celebrity athletes, like Carmelita Jeter, the fastest woman alive, who holds the world record in track. Her story is inspiring because I compare my journey to a race: the whole concept is just moving forward, looking forward, and not stopping until you hit the finish line. She tore her quad in 2013 and was told she wouldn’t be able to run. She ignored them and became the fastest woman alive.

Chris Draft is the former NFL linebacker from Atlanta; he lost his wife sadly, two months after his wedding, to lung cancer. That could have destroyed him completely, but instead, he decided to keep her legacy alive by helping others to live happy lives. He’s changing the face of lung cancer. His wife was a dancer and was completely healthy. It can happen to anyone. He’s such an empowering person. In his presence, you just feel so energized.

We have a panel of inspiring guests, past guests of my YouTube show: Sooks, Amen, and Stephanie Seban. We have a celebrity game show with Adam and Andrea from Amazing Race Canada and Angela Price. There will also be special performances.

What everyone has in common that night is that they’re people who have overcome challenges and are there to inspire others to do the same. The twist to my talk show is these people are inspiring, resilient people who are brave enough to share their stories. They’re not just celebrities, they’re brave enough to share their vulnerability and story on stage as I’ve been doing for the past 4 to 5 years.

What are your plans for the future? What’s the next project? Another instalment of TNSL, or something else entirely?

The big dream is to bring The Nalie Show on tour. The beauty about what I’ve done is that I’ve reached out to so many people all around the world, and I would love to meet everyone in person someday somehow. The Nalie Show Live Tour 2018 is the big dream. But the number one project is to heal and get better, and to eventually be in remission. Miraculously. That’s what my focus would be.

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To find out more about The Nalie Show Live and score tickets to attend, check out her event website here. Check her out on InstagramYouTube, Facebook, and on her website for your daily dose of inspiration, or just to say what’s up!

All photos courtesy of Nalie Agustin.

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