'The story of a young, healthy, unsuspecting breast cancer fighter.
"nothing about this doesn't suck"' - Stacy
I love doing boudoir sessions. It has become one of my favourite things to shoot. My favourite part… watching people go from nervous to totally confident and rocking a session. Feeling so great about their bodies that they don’t even think twice about strutting around in their lingerie. Like that is just a normal thing to do.
I love giving people confidence in themselves and creating art from their bodies. On top of that, creating images to cherish for years to follow.
So, when I was given an opportunity to take it a step further, I didn’t even hesitate. A boudoir session, for a young cancer survivor, I was speechless.
I am not great at knowing what to say in a tough situation or how to act. I bottle things up, and suppress my feelings and emotions. But, what I am great at, is asking for your story and listening while you tell it; learning about your experience and your feelings. I want to hear what you have to say.
So, that is exactly what I did, and I learned so much. Stacy’s story is inspiring and needs to be shared. Every woman, no matter their age, should hear it. So, I asked her to write it down and was so excited when she did.
Here’s her story:
At the age of 30,
on a December night in 2014, I noticed a lump in my left breast while showering and went to see my family doctor right away.
Due to my young age, large breasts with dense tissue, and no family history of breast cancer, I was dismissed from his office with no tests and no one to talk to about where to go from here. I put it out of my mind (even though the lump remained) and 6 months later saw a different doctor who, again, assured me there were not enough warning signs to make her think it could be cancer. I was told to “keep an eye on it” and left the office again thinking “two doctors have told me it’s not cancer, I’ve got to stop worrying about it”. Biggest mistake I’ve ever made. My advice to anyone in a similar situation would be - listen to your gut, be your own advocate, don’t leave without getting a definite diagnosis! When I went back, a few months later, for a THIRD opinion, the nurse practitioner (who still didn’t think it was cancer) said she would send me for an ultrasound to figure out what it was.
Things moved quickly from there. Ultrasound and mammogram on the same day showed something “abnormal”. The next step would be an MRI - a large mass was seen. Next I was told I needed to have a biopsy. Anxiously awaiting results, which seemed to take forever, I finally made the call on November 24th, 2015, to my doctor (the one who initially fluffed me off) who later called me back to tell me over the phone: “it’s cancer”.
What more can I say. I can’t put into words the thoughts that went through my head after that phone call. We all know what that word means, but in a way, we don’t know what it means at all.
“I had to tell my family and friends about the diagnosis, not knowing anything about the diagnosis myself!”
The next day, I made a call to the nurse practitioner who was limited in what she could tell me about my specific type of breast cancer, but she got me in touch with the “breast navigator” at the hospital who took the time to answer my LONG list of questions.
Being the type of person who likes to have all of the information, and do all of the research, I was determined to figure it out for myself. By the end of that next day, after being diagnosed, I had a better understanding of what this word “cancer” meant for me. From that first day, it meant “I’m going to beat this”.
Surgery was booked within the week. My surgeon was amazing and very informative, concerned and empathetic. Both breasts were removed right before Christmas. The love and support I received was overwhelming to say the least. My house looked like a florist’s shop. I’ve never been so popular! I’m lucky to have caring friends and family. I told Dave (my boyfriend) that what we were about to endure was going to be tough. I’d lost my Dad to cancer and it sucked.
“Dave proved that he was in it with me for the long run when he proposed, a month after my double mastectomy surgery. He said he’d had the ring for a while and was waiting for the right moment to pop the question. This gave me the strength I needed to stay positive and start planning for a long, happy future with him by my side.”
After a round of fertility preservation, I started 6 rounds of chemotherapy in January, 2016. Every three weeks I would go to PRHC with my fiance and my sister by my side. Nothing about this didn’t suck. I somehow channeled my inner strength and got through it. All of my hair was gone, I was gaining weight from the medications and lack of exercise, I looked sick, but I still managed to get up everyday. I drew on my eyebrows. I walked, when I could find the energy. I fought off infection. I went to support groups, and I kept in touch with friends. I was even able to work a little bit, here and there, which was a great distraction leading up to the next treatment.
I had just a few weeks of “normalcy” before starting 25 rounds of radiation. Nothing about that didn’t suck either. It was like getting a sunburn on my chest, and then going back out in the sun every day for 25 days, just to get burned again. It was very difficult, painful and draining. I still have the outline from the burn to this day. I knew I had to do it, to prevent the cancer from coming back, but I didn’t like it one bit.
More time off work passed, and I celebrated the “end” of my treatments with a huge surprise party thrown by my sisters as well as a bucket-list trip to California with Dave. It was not the end though. It was actually just the beginning of 5 years of maintenance therapy - needed to prevent recurrence.
I am exactly halfway through that process now, and since that summer of 2016, when radiation ended, I’ve gotten married, I got back in shape.
“I’ve had 2 surgeries for reconstruction,”
I’ve spoken in front of a room full of women about those experiences, I’ve connected with SO many young survivors who are going through and have been through similar experiences, and I’m grateful for every person I’ve met as a result of this diagnosis. I’m continuing to educate myself and advocate for myself. I’m staying strong, and positive, and as healthy as I can, as I put my story out there in hopes to inspire others. I truly believe that everything that has happened throughout this journey is what’s meant to be. I’m a better person as a result of beating cancer.
I am so honoured to have the opportunity share her story with you. To pass this inspiration on to anyone who may need it.
Hopefully her story inspires other women, especially young women,
who need a boost..
or just to not feel alone..
Stacy is planning to write a story about her experience in front of the camera and I cannot wait to hear it. I will update this blog with a link to it as soon as she completes it.
Thank you Stacy for sharing your story! Thank you for inspiring other young women to be brave. Most importantly, thank you for showing them the importance of self advocacy!
If you have a story to tell, I want to hear it! So please contact me and tell me your story.