Meet Cecile blog hero image of cecile hugging ceo of anaono dana donofree
Meet Cecile

Meet Cecile

Dana Donofree
4 min read

Up this week we sat down with Cecile, as she explained to us her inspiring story of being diagnosed with two different types of breast cancer; one in each breast. Cecile underwent a bilateral mastectomy with no reconstruction. You might recognize Cecile 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.

Can you tell us a bit about your diagnosis? 

"I was walking in the parking lot of the school where I was beginning my Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program, when my doctor called me and told me about my diagnosis. I went to my car, called my husband and cried.  

I had two different kinds of breast cancer, one in each breast. Intraductal carcinoma in situ in my right breast and malignant neoplasm in my left breast. HER2+ 

Knowing that I had cancer in both breasts, my husband and I decided to do a bilateral mastectomy after talking with my cousin who is a radiation oncologist. With the bilateral mastectomy, we reduced the chances that I would need radiation treatment. I was fortunate and didn’t need chemotherapy either. I did/do take what I call estrogen inhibitors. I’ve been on Letrozole, which is an aromatase inhibitor, used to treat postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive or unknown advanced breast cancer, for years. 

I was scared.  Since I am a clinical massage therapist and was certified in manual lymphatic drainage, I was really worried about getting lymphedema.  Also, I was really annoyed that this was interrupting my life plan to become a physical therapist assistant.  I wanted to get back to school, swimming and working out as soon as possible after my surgery.  Every doctor’s appointment, I had textbooks with me so that I could study while waiting. I had my surgery on Friday and was back in class on Monday. (Crazy, yes!)"

Meet Cecile, inspiring certified revital cancer rehab therapist who underwent a bilateral mastectomy with no reconstruction

How did your diagnosis and treatment affect your relationships with your family and friends? 

"I only let a few people know about my cancer. I didn’t want to worry a lot of people or hear “oh I’m so sorry”. I never told my father, because I knew he would just worry. I didn’t tell my sisters until after the treatment was complete. I only told my best friend and told her not to tell her husband. My husband, my daughters and then son-in-law, best friend, cousin-the radiation oncologist, the pastor and first lady of our church were the only people I told of my friends and family. I did have to tell the professors in my PTA program, who were very understanding."  

What advice would you give to other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer? 

"Understand that there is life after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Stay active. Enjoy life every day. Despite the challenges – Choose to be positive. Choose to be hopeful. Choose to be happy."  

What type of chest surgery did you receive as part of your cancer treatment or prevention?  

"I was supposed to have reconstruction surgery but found out that the day before my surgery that my oncologist said that with my kind of cancer, reconstruction immediately following the mastectomy didn’t have favorable results. So, my medical team decided to defer reconstruction until more data on my tumors and future treatment was obtained. So, I ended up getting a Bilateral mastectomy– 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? 

"Please make sure that following your surgery or during your treatment you make a physical therapy appointment. Often breast cancer survivors experience limited shoulder range of motion, cording (axillary web syndrome), side effects from radiation or chemotherapy which can be helped or mitigated with physical therapy. A certified lymphedema therapist can assess and advise you, since most of us have had at least the sentinel lymph node removed. Cancer Rehab’s goal is to help us (breast cancer survivors) to live our best life before, after and during treatment as well as throughout recovery."

What did it mean to you to participate in our photoshoot? 

"It was one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had. When I saw Dana, the founder, when she hugged me — I started crying. I have heard my patients struggle with finding bras. I was remembering the feelings of those patients, their tears, their anguish. Their relief when learning of AnaOno and finally getting a garment that feels good is so gratifying. To meet the founder and be part of the process that fulfills these needs was amazing.  

Personally, I have been struggling with how my appearance has changed with my progressive vitiligo since I saw my first spot and loss of melanin 20 years ago. Most days, I hated myself and the way I looked, on top of having no breasts. Everyday my body and face changes. But everyone at the photo shoot was so encouraging, constantly telling us all how beautiful we were. People of different sizes, different colors, different breasts or no breasts were all celebrated and loved."

mastectomy and never alone community member cecile shares her story with anaono

How did you first hear about AnaOno? 

"I am a Certified ReVital Cancer Rehab therapist, in addition to being a Certified Lymphedema Therapist. As a physical therapist assistant with these specialties, I treat cancer patients and many breast cancer patients daily. My patients are usually relieved to know that I had breast cancer also. I was talking with one of my patients about getting bras and she told me about AnaOna. She said one thing she loved about AnaOno was that they had regular women modeling."

If you could describe AnaOno in one word, what would that word be? 

"One word is not enough. Love, respect for all body types. Comfort. Support" 

Dana Donofree
Dana Donofree

Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.