Photography
Comments 28

Not All Pretty and Pink: Thoughts from a Breast Cancer Warrior

This is Amanda.

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Amanda was one of my students back in 2012. In November 2014, she found a lump the size of a marble in her right breast. Doctors told her she was too young. Only 21. Just a fibrocystic breast change, they said. Here, take some pain pills, there is nothing to be afraid of.

On June 5, 2015, at 22  years of age, Amanda found out she had Stage 2 Grade 3 breast cancer. Invasive ductal carcinoma ER and PR positive HER2 negative. On September 9, 2015, she underwent a double mastectomy, no reconstruction.

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The images in this post were taken a month after her surgery. On May 5, 2016, Amanda completed her last chemotherapy session. She continues treatment with a monthly shot that will span the next five years.

This is Amanda’s voice:

“Your test results came in. It’s breast cancer.”

I hung up the phone and broke down. My son was right there and tears started to fall.

When you get diagnosed with cancer, you automatically think DEATH. What about Jayden? What about my family?

You hear stories of people who are diagnosed…then die.

I didn’t want that to be me.

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How do you move forward when your breasts get taken away? When all your hair falls out from treatments? How can you be happy when you’re sick 24/7? When you can no longer wear lace bras or lingerie or cute tops because there’s nothing but two scars and no breasts?

How can you feel sexy or pretty when you don’t look like you?

Wearing big sweatshirts and t-shirts because bras are twice as annoying.

Swelling from doing too much.

People staring because your scars go to your armpits.

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Having the most simple things like a cold be an emergency room visit.

The Red Devil. Taxol. Fevers, colds, nausea. No eating. No energy.

80 lbs. Maybe less.

Depression.

I miss who I used to be.

I miss feeling attractive and being able to dress up and do my hair.

The first time I had the chance to see my scars. I looked away. I wasn’t ready. I remember pulling my dressing off and crying. Two lines and flat. No nipple. No tissue. Nothing but tubes showing through my skin. I hated my own body.

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I support breast cancer awareness, pink this and that, but it’s annoying because they don’t show the true damage.

This photo is my favorite. It captured my emotions toward my cancer. The pain, the embarrassment. Wanting to cry. In this moment, I was lost in thought. This is me. This is my body. This is what breast cancer does to you. 

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Breast cancer isn’t pretty and pink like it seems.

I’m far from the person I used to be.

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I personally don’t like the word survivor.

No one really survives cancer.

It will always be a part of me.

Moving on is hard, knowing I can’t do certain things anymore . It has changed me a lot. I’ve learned life is too short, so enjoy the little things.

After I was diagnosed, I regretted not doing the things I wanted. I told myself that if I finish this fight, after chemo, I’ll achieve my goals.

One week after my last chemo, I jumped into college. That way, if it comes back, I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished. If it comes back worse than before, I can expect the worst knowing I’ve left something that my son and family can remember me by.

Being only 23 and having to think “what if” is hard, but I’m not in the clear, even with all this medication.

Cancer motivated me to work with other cancer patients going into this fight. Not knowing the outcome, only having fear and hope.

Cancer affects me every day, but I am thankful to be here. I look forward to being a nurse and working with cancer patients. I look forward to building my family and fighting until there’s nothing left in me.

 

 

 

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28 Comments

  1. What a beautiful post Patty, and Amanda you are brave and beautiful. This is very personal for me as my youngest sister was diagnosed with the same type of cancer including the HER status. She had surgery, chemo, radiation has to have yearly shots and takes oral Chemo for the rest of her life. My Mother also a breast cancer survivor was diagnosed with Stage 4 Inflammatory breast cancer, they gave her less than a year to live even with the mastectomy, chemo and radiation but she proved them wrong and 11 years later is still here and cancer free. Amanda you are an inspiration and Patty thank you for documenting this

  2. I am speechlesss Patty and Amanda. I don’t think I would have the courage to share something so personal. I admire you both for showing the reality of breast cancer. You are both special; Amanda for experiencing this at such a young age and your positive attitude and Patty for your eye-opening photos. I am a cancer survivor too (almost 35 years now). You are an inspiration to many…

  3. Wow! What can I possibly say that has not already been said. Amanda, you are beautiful and you are strong. The photographs and your words are powerful and meaningful. Everyone needs to be their own advocate because sometimes the doctors are wrong. Stay healthy and be happy!

  4. I am also without words to describe this powerful and touching post. The words and the photos are stunning and touching and will be an inspiration to all of us. My heart goes out to both of you.

  5. Patty thanks so much for sharing this story and the amazing photographs. I am always angry when I hear stories where medical experts didn’t take the patient seriously (I’m a doctor) It’s so important to listen and approach every situation with an open inquisitive mind. I have heard a number of stories like this from friends and acquaintances and it always makes me angry and also very sad. I wish Amanda all the best. Thank you Amanda for being so brave and telling it how it is.

  6. Look up photographer Charise Isis. She photographs breast cancer survivors and would love to photograph this wonderful person next time she is in your area.

  7. Hey Patty, I am reading this at work, and having to fight back the tears. What an emotional, moving and inspirational post. God bless this beautiful girl. I have a friend who found breast cancer at stage 3, they removed one breast. They said it was only in that breast and that they were successful in getting it all. That was around 8 years ago. The cancer is back now …it metastasized into her lungs, stage 4 they said, terminal they said. That was 2 years ago. Not only did it metastasize into her lungs, it is now in her bones, eyes and brain. They are currently doing radiation …it is not good. Cancer never is …thanks so much for sharing her story with us. Hugs!

  8. Wow!!!! Such a beautiful heart wrenching tale. My mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I am photographing her journey. This seriously takes my breath away.

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