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Article: From Cancer to Creation

From Cancer to Creation

It all started with a cancer diagnosis. In April 2022, at the age of 40, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the following eight months, I had to face a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, a total hysterectomy (hello menopause!), and the first of three reconstruction surgeries. 

Throughout this horrific journey the most demoralizing aspect was losing my hair. Even paying additional for scalp cooling (a cost covered in other countries and one which many are unable to afford) and being told that I’d keep 85% of my hair, I lost 90%. To have chunks of hair constantly falling out in the shower was one of the most surreal and devastating experiences in my cancer journey. Watching my hair fall out daily was torture and even though I was undergoing hours of scalp cooling during each chemotherapy session, I still had to buy a wig. While the wig helped, it was so itchy and awkward. I found myself constantly searching and trying out alternative options, like turbans and head wraps. I even created my own hat wigs using old hair extensions that I sewed to the inside of baseball caps. But my favorite alternative option other than my handmade hat wigs, was a beautiful luxury silk scarf that was given to me during chemo by my husband. The scarf made me feel glamorous and chic, like a classic movie star on vacation. I would wrap the scarf around my head and pop on my largest sunglasses (since I was also losing my eyebrows and eyelashes) and leave the house, feeling beautiful and chic at a time that I felt anything but. That feeling stuck with me as I searched for different scarf options but so many that I found were polyester (which I was avoiding because of carcinogens) or just too fussy and not at all my style. 

Fleur Sauvage founder, Maria Confer during chemotherapy

During chemo, wearing the scarf my husband gifted me, July 2022.

While being stuck in bed for months during chemotherapy and surgery recovery, I had a lot of time to think about life, death, and what I wanted for my future. What became immediately clear was that I wanted to find a way to raise money to give back to breast cancer charities and I wanted to create something that would be both beautiful and cherished for years to come.

In November 2022, after being inspired by my amazingly artistic son, I picked up my iPad and began drawing again for the first time in seven months. The act of creating was immensely therapeutic and I quickly realized my drawings would make beautiful silk scarves. Having that epiphany further sparked my creative mind. The scarf ideas came rushing into my brain almost faster than I could write them down. I spent all my free time when I wasn’t recovering, homeschooling my 9 year old son, or getting ready for the holidays- drawing. I came up with the  business name Fleur Sauvage Design (fleur sauvage means wildflower in French and symbolizes growing in difficult places. Plus it's a nod to a previous business I owned) and researched the best silk printing factories around the world and found a historical and GOTS certified factory in England that creates stunning silk scarves with hand-rolled edges. My designs are classic and cheeky; traditional with the right amount of whimsy, and of course beautiful.

I am grateful to now be cancer free and living my life to the fullest with my husband of 20 years, our almost 10 year old son, and my family and friends while pursuing my business dreams!

Thank you for reading about my cancer journey and my new endeavor, Fleur Sauvage.


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