Stylist, blogger and cancer survivor Kelsey Bucci finds home in Savannah.
Clad in distressed denim, smart snakeskin loafers, a soft grey Commes de Garcons cardigan and delicate earrings, Kelsey Bucci is the embodiment of upscale tomboy chic. At her home in Richmond Hill, the light brown, blond-crested mop crowning her head gives her whole look a fresh, French girl-cool vibe — appropriate, given the title of her overwhelmingly popular blog, Pardon My French, and her new web-based clean beauty and lifestyle shop, Paris Laundry.
The ability to rock timeless investment pieces while nodding to trends is classic Kelsey. The curls, though, are new, like much of her life in the past two years.
Kelsey — mom of four, military wife, blogger, small business owner, podcaster, stylist, consultant, former teenage Vegas cowgirl — moved to Savannah in August 2017 with her family. A month later, she was diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer by doctors at Telfair Pavilion. She’d found her own lump after waking from a dream in the Richmond Hill home her family had just settled into.
“No one in my family had breast cancer,” she reports. “I had no idea that it was even in the realm of possibility for a 30-year-old to have breast cancer.”
In a brand-new town, far away from family, Kelsey found herself in the care of an expert team of doctors. She was also comforted by the warmth of the Savannah community, from fellow soccer moms dropping off hot meals to a stranger offering a hug in the grocery store. Now, a year after completing chemo, she’s taking charge, stepping out as an influencer and breast cancer advocate with conviction, humor and some colorful language.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Kelsey spent her early days in boots, big hats and sequined vests, riding and showing horses. It wasn’t until she attended college in Washington that she became entranced by fashion. “I was experimenting with everything,” she remembers. “I was changing my hair color, my hair length — I wasn’t riding horses, so I didn’t feel like I needed to shift into Cowgirl Kelsey mode. I fell in love with style right off the bat.”
She also fell in love with Chris, a young soldier stationed at Fort Lewis, just southwest of Tacoma. They married at 19, moved back to Vegas, and Kelsey began splitting her time between working in a tack shop and in high-end boutiques in Caesar’s Palace, where she became enamored with visual merchandising and buying. She planned to continue in the fashion world as she and Chris started a family, but with the arrival of her first son, Kelsey became a full-time mom.
The long-term plan was to launch a boutique after Chris retired from the military.
“With that future in mind, I lost myself in motherhood,” she recounts. “I was so focused on being the best mom, and doing that meant giving so much of myself. I didn’t know there was a balance.”
When military life took the Buccis to Alaska, Kelsey started a blog. At first, it was a way to keep family up-to-date with their new lives, but soon it grew into much more. Fellow military wives began reaching out, and other moms commented with their experiences. Pardon My French became a gathering place for the modern mom, a spot on the web where Kelsey shared her personal style, online shopping roundups and tips on how to pack for an Alaskan vacation.
Though its content evolved over the years, Pardon My French kept a decidedly lighthearted, sarcastic tone — so even when the occasion called for it in 2018, news of a cancer diagnosis seemed too heavy to blog about.
“I remember telling my husband, ‘I just want to get through this, I don’t want to tell anyone. I just want to go away and reemerge quietly with short hair,’” Kelsey remembers. “He said, ‘That’s not like you at all. You usually want to tell anyone anything that’s going to help them, and you can really do some good because you’re not finding what you need on the Internet.’”
After her first round of chemo, Kelsey pressed “Share” on a piece titled “The blog post I never thought I’d write.” Responses started pouring in from women in their twenties with a recent diagnosis, cancer fighters looking for community and caregivers in search of any advice on how to support their loved ones. With that, Kelsey began actively detailing her new day-to-day, from the hours-long infusions at Telfair Pavilion to precious family time. She also discovered the world of breast cancer survivors connecting on Instagram, carrying on detailed discussions of medication, side effects, fears and triumphs in the comments.
While the blog and social media allow Kelsey to share a visual narrative and engage in meaningful conversations, she felt like part of the story was missing. “Instagram is a highlight reel,” she says. “You’re not necessarily showing all the bad. Cancer is emotional, and rough, and there’s so much that goes into it. I felt a podcast would be a better way to explain.”
What came next was But You Don’t Look Sick, a podcast that uses Kelsey’s signature sarcasm, frankness and tenacity to tell her cancer story from very beginning, chronicling her lump discovery, diagnosis and hunt for the right team of doctors. The podcast has grown to include interviews with fellow cancer fighters, and address specific questions from listeners.
Kelsey introduced the podcast last October, which happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “You’re inundated with all of this pink and ribbons, but behind the ribbon there are real women who want real action, treatments that are targeting specific cancer characteristics.” Kelsey says. “I felt like bringing in other women to tell their stories would further the conversation.”
Kelsey will be monitored closely by her doctors for the next 10 years, and breast cancer advocacy and education is a component in every new business venture she takes on. After all, it was those long hours in infusion chairs that pushed her to launch both her eponymous styling, consulting and marketing business, and Paris Laundry, where she curates all-natural, doctor-approved skincare and makeup products with cancer patients in mind. She looks forward to spending more time within her Savannah community, working with local nonprofit Savannah Influencers, conducting live chats with survivors via the Breast Cancer Healthline app, and soaking up the creative energy of her new hometown.
“I didn’t know I could do any of this until I got diagnosed with cancer,” she says. “Nobody ever wants cancer, but if you get cancer, it oddly can be something to be thankful for. Cancer made me reevaluate what made me happy, and it put everything into perspective.”