October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s a month where we see a lot of pink ribbons, shaved heads, and are reminded to get our mammograms. We wanted to do something a little different. So we are going to share the journeys of two BraTopia team members. Two breast cancer survivors and one daughter. Our purpose with this post is to support and empower those going through the same or similar situations.
Meet Bev and Kate. Kate has been a team member and one of our managers since 2014. Her mom Bev was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2014 and received a mastectomy shortly after her diagnoses. Bev has been living cancer free since her mastectomy, part of staying cancer free for Bev is taking her prescription tamoxifen.
What emotions did you feel when you were first diagnosed? (Bev) Startled & surprised. It wasn’t something I was expecting. I couldn’t feel any lumps in my breast. There were no clear signs for me, as the doctor described it was a shadow on the image that lead them to believe I might have cancer. Because it wasn’t a solid mass, every test they did came back negative. With the shape and density of the mass, it was hard to get a sample and it wasn’t until the lumpectomy that they actually had a positive test result.
Why did you choose to have the mastectomy? (Bev) I didn`t want to chance going through more & more surgeries. I had the support of my husband and my daughter, they were right there saying whatever is going to be the most effective and decrease the chance of this getting worse or coming back. The type of mass I had meant it was hard to determine if they had it all so for my family and I it was a no-brainer.
What was it like being with your mom while they prepped her for surgery? (Kate) If anything it made me feel better. It let me feel like I had some sort of control about what was happening to her. I could protect her. The hardest part was when they put the radiation dye in for the X-ray to locate the tumor. I will never forget the scream of pain that came from my mom. I just said it’s ok as long as you can feel that means you are here and alive. Feeling pain is better than feeling nothing at all. Then we just laughed and she went to surgery.
What was the hardest part of the recovery processes? (Bev) Finding proper fitting bras and prosthesis. When I first left the hospital I was given a cotton prosthesis and as my daughter said one looked 20 years old while the other was a solid 50 years old. After a lot of trial and error, I finally have bras that fit and a prosthesis that works with my body. I found that wearing a normal bra that is fit properly is the best and most comfortable way to wear my prosthesis. I am not the smallest breasted women so wearing the bras provided by the hospital (even after some alterations) simply didn’t provide the support I needed. The only unfortunate part is the cost because not only do I need to get a new bra when my weight fluctuates I also need a new prosthesis. That’s the one place I never seem to lose weight!
Why was the support of your family so important during recovery? (Bev) They kept me healthy and sane. They pushed me (against my protests) to recover the healthiest way possible with clean eating and doing my physio. Because of this support (and my bossy daughter) I can do everything I could before cancer. I have a full range of motion and no limitations.
What was it like having your mom live with you during her recovery? (Kate) Hard…it was hard. My mom is a smoker, doesn’t like her veggies, and certainly doesn’t like working out! I wouldn’t buy her smokes, I fed her lots of veggies, and made her do her physio every day. Let’s just say there were some less than favorable names thrown around between the two of us (Kate laughs at the memory). Three years later my mom tells me it was the best thing I could have done for her. She now has a full range of motion on her mastectomy side.
What is one piece of advice you would share with other women? (Bev) Do your exercises. This is crucial to mobility, and range of motion. You have to have the right person help you with this. Make sure that the person helping you with this is also the person you would call if you need to hide a body! It has to be the person that you trust the most and that you will forgive. They have to be willing to push you when you want to quit. And you have to be able to forgive them for pushing you because you have to do it all again tomorrow. I had my daughter and best friend do this for me.
All pictures featured in this blog are of Kate and Bev.
Meet Deborah, Deborah has been a team member and fitting consultant since 2016 and was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in May 2017. Luckily they found Deborah’s breast cancer early by screening. The lump was so small you couldn’t even feel it and now Deborah is cancer free.
What emotions did you feel when you were first diagnosed? (Deborah) I wasn’t scared, I had faith. What you believe can get you through a lot. Having a good support system means really a lot. For me, breast cancer was one of the of those things that sometimes in life happens and all you can do is deal with it and keep moving forward. A Part of how I was able to accept and deal with what was happing is how I view myself my breasts don’t define me as a woman.
What has your treatment been like? (Deborah) Amazing, the medical team I had was wonderful from beginning to end. I was part of a trial and had radiation for 5 days instead of 26. The radiation wasn’t as bad an I expected. It was 15 minutes to 20 minutes and just targeted the spot it needed not all your tissue. They have made a lot of advancements with radiation treatment so I am very fortunate with my experience.
Why did you choose to be apart of the trial? (Deborah) A big part of the reason I chose the trial was to give back to the next generation of women who will go through this. The more we work together to research and develop treatment the less our daughters and granddaughters and so on will have to endure to live a long healthy life.
What is one piece of advice you would share with other women? (Deborah) Keep a positive attitude, don’t let the negativity grab hold. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a support system in place there are amazing organizations that will support and help you. Don’t ever feel like you have to do this alone. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, this is a journey meant for teams.
Deborah is always happy and willing book appointments with women in need of support during their journey.