Model Mieko Rye couldn't look in the mirror. During 20 weeks of chemotherapy to treat stage three breast cancer, she purposely avoided her reflection.
"I would purposely brush my teeth, but I wouldn't take a second to look," she told ABC News. "I didn't want to spend time on that because in my mind I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. It's hard enough to feel it, let alone see it."
But eventually Rye did look. And it wasn't so bad, she said. It's inspired her to do a special photo shoot while battling cancer and share it on Facebook to inspire other "pink ladies," as she called them, to love themselves.
"When I first started to lose my hair and my eyebrows and eyelashes, I thought, 'This situation is so sick with irony because of my job.' I would say it jokingly to people but I was really crying on the inside," the Seattle resident admitted. "And I think that was the first step on my journey."
Rye, 41, who has been a professional model for 20 years, said she initially cried when she saw herself during treatment because she saw "someone else in the mirror."
"When I dream, I still (picture myself) with hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. I still dream how I used to look like. And when I looked in the mirror I couldn't deny it anymore," she explained.
Eventually Rye said she found the strength to love who she was now.
"I'm more happy now because I know myself so much better and I love myself so much more," she said. "I'm going to own this. And I want other women to be inspired and own it as well. It's more about the inner beauty and when that shines through, you're just as beautiful. You haven't lost anything. You've gained it."
Rye said she's now preparing to have a bilateral mastectomy to have both breasts removed -- a decision inspired by her 7-year-old son.
"I'm a single mom and it's just me and my son," she explained. "I didn't want to go through this again. I didn't want my son to go through this again."