Behind the Bra: Meet Carrie
Written by guest writer: Carrie @ckreiswirth
I am currently in (and embracing) my survivor era. An era that marks a particularly significant milestone for me: 10 years. TEN YEARS. I was diagnosed with Stage I Triple-Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) – breast cancer – a whole decade ago. I still don’t think the mere notion of this fact has completely sunk in. I am still in the midst of an emotional hangover and feeling ALL of the feelings. And that’s okay. I want to feel all the feelings – it means I’m alive. It means I’m processing. It means I’m human. It means I’m here – for all of it.
A few years prior to my diagnosis I had undergone genetic testing after my mother tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation (which raises one’s probability of developing breast and ovarian cancer). My mother had sought testing after being strongly encouraged to do so by her longtime OBGYN as we have a substantial family history of breast and ovarian cancer. (my maternal grandmother and two great aunts passed away from breast and potentially ovarian cancer in their early 40s).
Testing positive for BRCA1, although daunting, made sense given my family history. And yet when the breast cancer diagnosis came, I still could not quite wrap my head around it. It was as if I was watching someone else’s life. I was not ready or anywhere near prepared to hear the words “You have cancer.” I do not think any of us ever are.
Shortly thereafter I had a double mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction. Given my family history, I also underwent fertility treatment prior to undergoing chemotherapy followed by a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of my ovaries and Fallopian tubes) to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence or newly developed cancer and am now in a surgically induced menopause.
While any kind of flap surgery can be quite layered including a long and intense recovery, I want to encourage others that no decision you make for yourself will be wrong. We are living in a time of growing and developing technology that allows us a variety of options as far as reconstruction and that is a beautiful thing. There is no one-size-fits-all path to reconstruction or no reconstruction – trust that you will know what is right for you. Personally, I proceeded with the DIEP flap because the idea of replacing my breast tissue with other tissue from my own body brought about a sense of calm, connection, and understanding for me mentally and emotionally, and I would still be “me.”
While cancer is a part of who I am, it does not define who I am. That’s not to say these experiences have not informed and impacted the way I think, the things I do, the people I surround myself with, and how I approach life because it most certainly does. It always feels present, sometimes more than others, even 10 years later.
So, where am I now? Exactly where I am meant to be.
This long and winding road has been both unpredictable and overwhelming and yet in some ways, unexpectedly beautiful. I think about all that I have learned and lost, and the people who I have met (and lost) along the way. I have learned a lot about myself and have been able to find acceptance along with joy and appreciation for my empathy and vulnerability, that I am strong by my own definition and not someone else’s; and that I am forever a work in progress continuing to find my voice.
And to be the namesake of such an impactful product? I feel seen and I am truly humbled, honored, and grateful to be forever connected to this remarkably special community in such a unique and powerful way. The very first time I put this bra on, I felt safe, supported, and strong. My hope is that anyone who wears this bra feels embodied by this same kind of strength, support, comfort, and beauty.