I had a double mastectomy without reconstruction. I wanted reconstruction but my doctor told me I had to wait a full year to make sure the cancer would not come back.
I remember when they were wheeling me into the operating room, reality was really kicking in now. It was time! It was really happening to me. I have cancer and they were going to remove my breast! I would be without breast!
Once I was settled into my room after surgery, everyone left. The moment I had been waiting for was here. I was alone with my thoughts and my fears. I wanted to touch my chest. I wanted to be by myself when I once again familiarized myself with my chest. I slowly pulled back the thin blanket that covered me. A bandage was wrapped all the way across my chest from armpit to the other, three drainage tubes were sticking out of my chest. I could barely move my arms. With great effort, I managed to bring my hands up to my chest. I carefully touched my chest, it was flat. Reality sank in with a jolt. I no longer had any breasts. Tears rolled down my face. I let my hands drop slowly back to my sides, the tears continued to drip down my cheeks. I stayed in the hospital for five days.
The nurse came to my home a week later to remove my drainage tubes and bandages. I was about to see my chest for the very first time. The nurse left, I was reluctant to get up, hesitant to go look at myself in the mirror. Finally, I mustered enough courage. I rose from the bed and walked over to the mirror. I looked in at a complete stranger. Who was this woman? Who was she? She had a long scar horizontally across her chest from one armpit to the other, no breasts, and three holes on her chest. How disgusting she looked! I was not prepared for this. A woman could never be prepared for this. Having no breasts told me that I had cancer and that perhaps it could kill me. I could no longer be in denial. I had cancer. It was perhaps the hardest thing to accept since I was such a strong person, a woman normally in control. That woman is now gone. From the moment I saw that stranger in the mirror, I knew that I would never look at myself in the mirror again. I sat on my bed and cried for a very long time. What kind of person would I become? Who was I? I felt ashamed and ugly, disgusted with the way I looked. I was no longer a woman. My womanhood was now taken away from me.
I prayed to God and asked him, why I my being punished? What have I done so bad to deserve this.
I know God does not punish anyone but at the time I was so angry. Was it because of my divorce?
But a voice kept coming back to me telling me I will be alright, that I will be helping hundreds of women. How can I help women when I cannot help myself.
The following year I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, I had a full hysterectomy. I now had a double mastectomy and a total hysterectomy. It was a long and painful procedure, which took more mental healing than physical. I found myself needing to find whatever means possible to heal not only my body but also my mind. I traveled, started juicing wheatgrass, exercised more, attended Hippocrates Health Institute. This is where I discovered my ability to throw away my fear of not being accepted as a woman. I had the opportunity to show myself to a room full of people who accepted my scars and made me feel beautiful again.
I wrote an article a month later in the magazine, Healing Our World ("the courage to look beyond").
The article was about the acceptance I received and the power I felt because of it. I became a new woman. I was stronger and in a position to help other women find empowerment.
Here is my story, the reason I wanted to write a book and open a store.
I was always a healthy person. I ate well, excercised daily and I always tried to be in control of each and every situation. On July 24 2007, my entire life changed drastically. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. For the first time in my life, I had absolutely no control.
I knew from that moment on that my life,and the lives of my two young boys, would be changed forever. So many unanswerable questions, was I going to die? If I did, what would happen to my boys? Who would take care of them? My questions were legitimate concerns. After all, not only was my life now on line, but I was also going through a divorce. I was extremely stressed.
There was a history of breast cancer in my family. My grandmother had died at the age of sixty-eight, my aunt at thirty-eight my great aunt at fifty-two; all of breast cancer. Telling my family was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do and my mother's reaction was more than any of us could take. I wished that somehow I could make it not true, if only to take away her pain. After seeing how much pain this caused my mother, my children and my family, I knew that I needed to do whatever it took to fight this horrible disease.
I'm proud to say that I am a cancer survivor. Being a woman is not about having breasts; it is about overcoming adversity and being stronger for it. It's about being comfortable in your own skin, no matter how difficult it may be sometimes. I love the person I've become. After writing my article I had so many people responding to that article thanking me for what I had done. I decided I was going to write a book. I said to myself, if I'm helping so many people with this article what about if I write a book about my three year journey with cancer. It would be about how I turned my life around and to give people hope. To help women like me to come to terms with their loss and feel better about the way they look. To never give up on themselves.
I decided I wanted to open a mastectomy & wellness boutique. I was inspired by my battle with cancer and journey to achieve wellness in body and mind. The boutique is a unique oasis for women facing the challenges of health and well-being. We offer a wide assortment of mastectomy wear, bras, bathing suits, sleep wear,prosthesis, accessories, compression garments, wigs and other products geared towards making women feel beautiful inside and out. We provide personal and private fittings, consultations. I have gone through many of the same experience as our clients.
We are capable of providing the kind of support they look for and need, offering a unique experience in a safe and professional environment. We also offer classes and sessions led by guest speakers on various topics such as lymphatic massages, body and self image and much, much more. All classes are free of charge. I also do a healing circle every month, where women have a safe environment to share their stories, their feelings and to be surrounded by love and support. We do a feel good day in October for breast cancer awareness month. We have a professional photographer, three makeup artists, a hairstylist, manicure and fashion show, with food and beverages provided. The most important part, is that our models are all cancer survivors. It's so nice to see the women enjoying themselves.
During the year we have other events where women can gather and have some fun. It gives me such pleasure to organize all these events and watch the women smile and be carefree. I wished when I was going through my cancer that I had a place to go like this. This is why I opened the store. I wanted to provided a one stop shop where women can come in for their personal needs, yet find support and feel safe. I did fight this horrible disease. God as given me a second chance in life. Now it's my time to give back. Now I understand the voice I used to hear, saying to me that I would help hundreds of women. This is what he was telling me.
Having breast cancer has helped me to look at life with a different perspective. My attitude towards life and priorities in life have changed. It helped me find my purpose. My life has changed completely. As a result, it has made me a better and stronger person. I had difficulties accepting my new image and I lived in constant fear. I became a stronger person because of my cancer. I wanted to share it with other woman who were in my situation or a similar situation. I want to inspire, to empower, and to encourage women never to give up on themselves. But, most important of all, to always believe in yourself.
How can I be upset having cancer when cancer as changed my life. I get to meet so many amazing woman everyday. I get to help them, to encourage them, to listen to them.
This is what I am meant to do. It's almost unbelievable to think that a tragic illness changed my life for the better. My boys are proud of what I have been doing. I work long hours, volunteer my time but they understand it's something I need and love to do.
Thank you for reading this, and thank you for your support.
I wrote my book "The Courage To Look Beyond" and also another article in Healing Our World I called it, The Beauty Within.
Through my article I hope that somehow I help all those who have been touched by cancer, more than this , I want to touch and affect the lives of all women and those who love them. This is our time to find power! The time has come for us to know who we are and love ourselves regardless of our physical appearance, regardless of our social standing, regardless of what we have been told to think and feel about ourselves.
I became the first woman in the world to go topless on the front cover of a book after a double mastectomy. My publisher and I had difficulties publishing the cover because they called it nudity I fought for my cover and won.
My book launched in New York City February 2013, Angelina Jolie revealed she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy May 2013 from the time she came out, radio stations from all over the world were contacting me for interviews about my book. People were calling me wanting to write articles about my book and my journey. I never thought by writing my book and revealing myself it would come to this. More women were now showing their tattoos making something beautiful of their chest. Dove soap came out with a commercial about loving your body.