The Power of Intuition and Self-Advocacy in My Breast Cancer Journey
Written by guest writer Gina B. creator of The Fondle Project
Photography by Kate Powers @katepowerslovesyou
Life has an uncanny way of throwing curveballs at us when we least expect it. At the age of 41, after ten years of seemingly normal screenings, I was hit with a diagnosis that would change my life forever - breast cancer. It's a story of intuition and self-advocacy that I'll never forget.
For a decade, my regular screenings gave me the assurance that I was in the clear. However, something in me just didn't sit right. Call it intuition or a gut feeling, but I couldn't shake the nagging suspicion that something was amiss. After two false-negative screenings and a biopsy misdiagnosis, I knew I had to trust my instincts. It was my own self-advocacy that led me to push for an MRI and seek second and third opinions.
Breast cancer shook my world, and the journey wasn't easy. I underwent five surgeries in 13 months to reconstruct my breasts. Like all women on this journey, I lost my confidence and self-esteem as a woman. But I was determined to regain my sense of self.
In the summer of 2019, I found myself single and back in the dating world. It was a daunting experience, and at first, I shared my story on first dates just to get it over with. However, after a few not-so-great experiences and some much-needed therapy, I decided to share my story when I was ready—on my terms. As I navigated the changes in my body, I focused on the things that brought me happiness and helped me regain my confidence. As a fashion stylist, part of my job was dressing women and making them feel confident. So, I turned the same care and attention to myself.
I discovered that getting dressed each day made me feel normal and like myself again. I would wear soft cashmere that felt good against my skin, layer myself in pretty jewelry, and wear beautiful lingerie. A simple button-down and the perfect tee that shaped my new breasts became my armor. These little things made me feel whole again.
I realized that a cancer diagnosis doesn't define me; it's just a chapter in my life. It's been almost seven years since my diagnosis, and I feel the strongest I've ever felt. This experience has given me a chance to reflect on my life and see what needs to be changed and adjusted.
I take the long view and see someone who has overcome many challenges, emerging stronger and more full of life. If it wasn't for my proactive self-exams and following my intuition, my fate could have been very different. I am incredibly grateful for these experiences and for the opportunity to be more present with my daughters.
Today, I am not only a survivor but also an advocate. I've launched The Fondle Project, an initiative to raise awareness about early detection and the importance of knowing our bodies. A call to action that aims to de-stigmatize self-touch and encourage women to embrace their bodies at any stage of their journey.
By sharing my story and promoting The Fondle Project, I hope to provide hope and inspiration to others facing similar challenges. Life may throw unexpected obstacles our way, but with resilience, self-care, and the support of loved ones, we can overcome and thrive.