A Note from Jane
As we continue to bring awareness to Breast Cancer through our SHARE THE LOVE coin, this blog post is very special. When I asked our customers for stories of their experience, I was incredibly touched by your willingness to be so open. Below are a few of your stories: from Laura, a tribute to here mom, Maureen. From Gillian, a story about her own experience with Breast Cancer. Amy's story, I related to immediately. Amy was kind enough to share not only her entire journey, but the notion that she broke a cardinal rule - she lost hope. When we are all trying to be positive – and wow isn’t that human nature for females – to stay positive – she LOST that optimism. For me, an incredibly optimistic person by nature – this hit me so hard. How could this have felt? How can we support those who we love who lose the spark to be positive? Here is the story in Amy’s words. As usual with our incredible community, please share in hopes so that in telling these stories we can help the women that surround us ♥️ If you would like to purchase the limited edition Love Strength Courage coin benefitting BCA, you can do so by clicking here.
A note from Laura, Jane Win Customer, remembering her mother, Maureen Way:
"This December it will be 5-years since we lost my mom, who was my best friend. Maureen was a daughter, a sister, a niece, an aunt, a mom, a grandmom, a cousin, a wife, a friend, a best friend, a bus driver, an elementary school teacher, a fax salesperson, a stay-at-home mom, a licensed realtor, an accomplished actress, and a golfer!
I still talk to her everyday & she reminds me that she is around in spirit by showing me signs that she is guiding us through life's challenges. She sends us bright shinny pennies when we need her most, and we find great comfort in these 'pennies from heaven.'"
A Note from Gillian, Jane Win Customer and Breast Cancer Survivor:
"March 17 , 2022 (Saint Patrick’s Day), 6 weeks after my 50th birthday, I went for my routine mammogram - something I never skip (I’ll skip the dentist any day ). I felt lucky, it was Saint Patty’s Day, I’m Irish and I just remember walking in for my exam thinking about nothing other than: are my girls too old for me to still dye the milk green?
I hate the mammogram. It’s uncomfortable at best, and although the nurses and techs are super nice they are grabbing a personal part of your body and smashing it! I left not thinking much about it and got a call that afternoon that I needed a diagnostic mammogram because they saw something, but it was likely nothing.
I immediately went into panic mode, especially after I found out I couldn’t get an appointment for a few weeks. That didn’t sit well with me, so I found a doctor who saw me the next day. When it was my turn the doctor told me that it was most likely calcium deposits and I should come back in 6 months. When I posed the question what if it’s something else she actually called me a nervous Nellie! I couldn’t believe it – but she did connect me with an oncologist. I had a meeting with that doctor, and she too thought it’s likely nothing but let’s do a biopsy to be safe.
The biopsy was so painful and humiliating! You lay face down on a bed, a door opens where your chest is, and the biopsy is performed from underneath like you are at Jiffy Lube getting an oil change! My Chart alerted me to the results a few days later. I was lucky as it turns out! I had an early stage Breast Cancer, a dear friend got me into Penn right away, and I have the best oncologist and plastic surgeon. After MRI’s and genetic testing, I had my mastectomy and, later, reconstruction. I didn’t require chemo or radiation, so another lucky factor.
I used to think 1 in 10 women was the statistic. I feel that it’s higher than that. I know so many people who have been diagnosed this year alone! I also have such an appreciation for women who are going through this. It’s not fun being topless in front of strangers under fluorescent lighting wearing a mask and just realizing you will be missing a piece of your body forever. The hardest part of it all for me was telling my 4 beautiful daughters what was going on. I waited so long to tell them as I was so worried about them worrying about me.
It’s such a personal and scary thing being told you have Breast Cancer. I don’t wish it on anyone and we women are warriors. Every appointment I go to I am in awe of the women waiting for treatments or appointments.
My message is be a nervous Nellie, take control of your health and when something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Lastly, when the office of the doctor who did my diagnostic mammogram called me in September of 2022 to confirm my 6 month checkup I told them to kindly pass the message on that this nervous Nellie in fact had cancer.
This is how I was personally touched by breast cancer, and it’s my honor to be of help to anyone who finds themselves in this position! On a good note, 4 weeks after having tissue expander replaced with an implant I embarked on a 200 yoga teach training program, and I am happy to say I completed it and have thought about teaching yoga to breast cancer survivors."
A Note from Amy, Jane Win Customer, Author of Baring it All, Breast Cancer Survivor:
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer on December 30, 2020. While breast cancer certainly left me with physical trauma and scars, it was the emotional and mental pains that impacted me most. “Before cancer Amy” was a serial optimist, and I truly thought I'd handle cancer the same way I did everything else, with positivity and a big smile. I declared loudly that I would "embrace cancer" and I would not allow for any negative vibes. Well, that didn't last long.
Perhaps not surprising to an outsider, but to me it was a shock to my system and I didn't know how to handle it. With a change in diagnosis (DCIS to Stage 2, Grade 3, HER-2+ invasive carcinoma), surgical plans I thought would be different (bilateral mastectomy with breast implants), and the news that I would need further treatments (chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation) which then had their own modifications and adjustments over time, I'd had enough of this roller coaster and wanted off! I lost both of my breasts, underwent 5 months of chemotherapy, and felt the weakest and worst I have in life. I endured 25 rounds of targeted radiation which left me exhausted. I completed one year of targeted immunotherapy. I had multiple surgeries with painful recoveries.
With all of this happening, I simply couldn't remain "Happy smiling Amy", but I felt so much shame being anyone else. It was all I knew. Plus, all the positive messaging thrown at women with breast cancer (stay strong, fight like a girl, warrior, etc) made me feel like even more of a failure. As a personal development junkie, I tried returning to some of the books I’d read, looking for ways to move out of the darkness, but I just wasn’t drawn to the words like I once had been. With the support of my therapist, family, and friends, I cautiously leaned into the harder emotions I was feeling like anger, sadness, and envy.
Over time, I learned the importance of allowing all of our emotions to come into play, not just the so-called positive ones. I utilized yoga, meditation, and journaling as ways to help me, but truly the most effective resource I had was right inside me; letting myself feel all of the emotions, and releasing what I could through screams and cries. I have chosen to turn this mess into a message, through both my published memoir, “Baring It All”, and advocacy work. I am passionate about enhancing the conversation around the emotional well-being of women with breast cancer, as well as changing the messaging we receive so that it also includes space for us to feel the hard stuff. Cancer isn't pretty. Cancer is grueling and brings up challenging emotions for many. I want women to know they can cry, scream, lay on the floor, and feel weak, whatever it is that makes them feel like a whole person, and not just one who has to be strong all the time. A woman with breast cancer has to go through enough and I don't want one more woman to feel shame over her own emotions like I did, on top of it all. It is hard to believe that this December, it will be 3 years since I received that life-altering phone call. Some days it feels like it’s been longer, while at other times it feels like it was just last week.
While I have finished all of my treatments, do not receive routine scans, and continue to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally, cancer didn't end when I chose to ring the bell. There is the ongoing fear of recurrence. There is trauma to process. There are doctor appointments. There are scans whenever my oncologist isn’t comfortable with something I’m feeling in my body. There’s the recoiling in my stomach every time I fill out a medical form and have to now mark ‘yes’, I have had cancer. Cancer has become a part of me and my story. And while it still wreaks havoc and may always have a presence, I am happy to say I feel the healthiest I have in years and cancer is definitely not defining me."
Thank you to Amy, Laura, Gillian and all of our customers who shared their Breast Cancer Story. Amy's book, “Baring It All” can be found on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, linked here .
Join us in supporting Breast Cancer Alliance here. Check out Jane's interview with BCA President Courtney Olsen here.The Share the Love: Love Strength Courage coin benefitting BCA will be available through December 31, 2023, or until sold out.