Look Again

By Ron Donoho / Photos by Brevin Blach

Angelina Jolie, Christina Applegate and Giuliana Rancic are among the female celebrities whose double mastectomies made headlines.

"I wanted to make this unselfish decision for my family," says Michel Sproles, wife of former San Diego Chargers running back Darren Sproles. "I didn't want to have to worry about it every day."

When Sproles, 29, took a preemptive strike against breast cancer by having a double mastectomy in October 2012, there were no headlines. In fact, because her husband now plays for the Saints , and the couple lives with their daughters (Devyn, 4, and Rhyan, 1) in New Orleans during football season, there wasn't even much of her family around San Diego to offer support during the surgery.

Despite an initial lack of findings by multiple physicians, Sproles felt something was wrong, which propelled her to keep looking for answers.

"I'd seen four doctors, and the fourth one finally had me do a mammogram," she says.

The test didn't reveal a palpable lump, but rather "the earliest form of the disease," as Sproles describes it. "Seven days after the mammogram," she says, "I elected to do a double mastectomy."

A year after the surgery, the former track athlete is now open to discussing her journey. It's fitting that her profession, which she's had since 2010, involves helping people overcome adversity and, in effect, makeover their lives.

"What happened to me shook my foundation, but I practice what I preach," she says.

Certified as an image consultant by the global nonprofit Association of Image Consultants International, Sproles launched 7 Image, a part-salon/part-consultancy business offering services ranging from hairstyling and wardrobe makeovers to etiquette training and life coaching. Customers include, for example, a former professional athlete who's trying to feminize her image so she can pursue a broadcasting career.

"I empower people from the inside and out," says Sproles. "The salon is where we do hair and facials and things, but the real goal is working on confidence on the inside."

Sproles, who's studying for a master's degree in Leadership Studies at the University of San Diego, says business is good. She enjoys spending time at her family's home in Rancho Santa Fe and looks forward to the end of the NFL season, when she and Daren will continue their work on Sproles Empowered Youth, a San Diego-based nonprofit sports camp and educational program for kids.

"I live by the motto that 20 percent of life is what happens, and the other 80 percent is how you respond," Sproles says, conveying with her warm smile an image of happiness and health.

7 Image Salon
6050 Mission Gorge Rd., Grantville
619.521.6807, 7image.com

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