Up this week we sat down with Amber, as she explained to us her inspiring story of being diagnosed with an aggressive form of Stage 0 DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). You might recognize Amber from our website, as she was one of the models from our most recent photoshoot. Read along to learn all about her diagnosis, journey and how she found her way to AnaOno and joining the Never Alone Community.
What was your experience like when you were first diagnosed with breast cancer?
"I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Stage 0 DCIS(ductal carcinoma in situ). 2 months following my surgical procedure, I received 35 Radiation treatments. My radiation oncologist and nurses explained to me how the treatments would go. They told me eventually I may get a really bad sunburn. I’ve never had a sunburn, so I didn’t completely understand what that would look like and feel like. The one thing that stayed in my mind was “stay positive.” My doctors and nurses were always surprised by the fact that I would have a smile on my face 99% of the time. I just refused to allow cancer to win in any shape or form of my life. I wouldn’t allow it to steal my joy and my beautiful smile!
Initially, I was in shock. At the time of my diagnosis, I was extremely healthy and active. My youngest (at the time) was a little over a year old, and I just stopped breastfeeding him, so I didn’t know what the cause was. I also consumed myself with google searches about what my breast cancer was, meant, and what I would potentially look like. I had my one and only anxiety attack upon the removal of my bandages from my surgery. I also had some self-esteem and self-love issues during my first year of accepting my new normal. Of course, now everything is different!"
How did your diagnosis and treatment affect your relationships with your family and friends?
"It made us closer. I actually didn’t tell most of my family/friends (outside of my husband and kids) until about a week before my surgery date. I just didn’t want anyone to worry about me. Once I told them, I received so much love and support during and after.
Once they all knew, my family literally surrounded me in love. My husband immediately went to full protection mode. He protected my heart, my feelings, and my sanity. My children gave me extra hugs and help along the way. My friends who I also consider family sent an unlimited number of cards, flowers, food, and presence when needed."
What advice would you give to other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer?
"I know how hard it is, but staying positive about your situation can be a major difference in your day-to-day life. I feel it’s easy to stay depressed and give up, but it’s also easy to choose to live your life to the best of your ability despite what you’re going through."
What type of chest surgery did you receive as part of your cancer treatment or prevention?
"My breast surgeon actually assumed I wanted reconstruction, so when she told me I needed surgery and began to make the necessary appts for me, she added breast augmentation doctor appts. as well. I immediately told her no thank you. I’ll be okay with my one breast because I didn’t want another surgery, and I thought I was still beautiful without the reconstruction. So, I ended up having a unilateral mastectomy of the right breast with no reconstruction."
Is there any advice you would like to give to someone who may be reading this article who is about to undergo the same surgical treatment that you did?
"Don’t allow anyone to make up your mind for you. You will have to look in the mirror and see your beautiful self-daily. There’s nothing wrong with having one breast. There’s also nothing wrong with getting reconstruction. No matter what choice you make, know that you are beautiful and you’re never alone. "
Has your relationship with your body changed? If so, how?
"I would say it has. I have a better appreciation for my new and improved body. I still get a shock factor sometimes when I look at my body because of all I have endured, but it’s all love. I love the fact that my body is unique and strong. My clothes fit differently, but in a great way. I don’t feel like I have to hide my scar. If I happen to find something that shows my scar off, I’m definitely buying it! I have no shame whatsoever."
How did you first hear about AnaOno?
"If I can remember correctly, some years ago, I was scrolling on a fellow breasties Instagram page, and one picture stood out. When I looked in the tags, I saw AnaOno was there. I clicked on the page, and it was love at first sight."
If you could describe AnaOno in one word, what would that word be?
"Can I use 4 pretty please?!!! “Beauty in all Shades”
What did it mean to you to participate in our photoshoot?
"Oh, it was everything I needed. I have NEVER been surrounded by young breast cancer beauties…survivors my age. It was necessary for me, and it was also healing for me. It’s different talking to everyone from a site (IG/Facebook), versus being able to talk, laugh, cry, and hug in person. My family, as lovely and supportive as they have always been, can’t fully connect with me on the same level as being a survivor. Being able to be surrounded by my breast cancer sisters, let me know I’m never alone. I’m forever grateful for the experience!"