"I find that most women have a hate relationship with their breasts and that makes me really sad. They're either small, large, lopsided, saggy, or too wide, and it made me realize that we need to stop this breast and body shaming because our bodies are beautiful and powerful," Courtney said. "I hope to inspire women with this Love Your Boobs, Love Yourself video that to completely love ourselves as women, we need to love and accept our boobs. There's a direct relationship between our self image of and the relationship we have with our breasts. Breasts don't define us but they are definitely a part of us. I want to bring awareness that this dysfunctional relationship we as women have with our breasts and with our bodies are directly stemmed from what the media portrays to be what is perfect and the ideal of beauty. I want to push the message that we aren't defined by our breast size and how we as women are defined by something greater."
There are certain times in your life that you watch loved ones go through trials and you think to yourself "man they are amazing." This is so true for me. As a teenager I watched my aunt battle breast cancer. It was difficult to say the least. I remember going to her house and helping clean and silently crying because of the pain she was in. That floor of hers was mopped with my tears more than once. To this day I think about all of the pain, suffering, surgeries, struggles, and heart breaks she has dealt with and it brings me to tears. My aunt is my hero in many ways and has taught me a very valuable lesson about my boobs. I am so pleased to have her share her story with you. It's not something that she does often so I am SO grateful she's willing to open up and share.
This is the face of a survivor. Not one time, but twice!
I was 39 when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I had been having regular cycles all my life and suddenly a change occurred which went on for a couple of months. I first thought it was a pregnancy, but after several negative tests I just figured I would now be irregular. One morning as I was showering I had a distinct impression to do a breast exam. Upon doing so I found an ever so small lump. I had surgery two days later and the one centimeter tumor was removed with a lumpectomy, however tests showed it had spread to the sentinel lymph nodes, which were the ones the cancer was draining too. Those were then removed, as well as hope of not having to endure chemo.
I then went to a clinic meeting which consisted of all the doctors I would need to see. The battle strategy was laid out before me by each doctor and a dose dense chemo was recommended as this was more aggressive than other chemo treatments and would combat the Her2neu positive cancer, a fast growing aggressive type of cancer. I chose not to use the oncologist that came to the clinic because he wanted me to join a study where there would be a 50% chance I would get Herceptin, the new drug that targeted Her2nu cells. I was determined to get that drug so I sought out a doctor who would prescribe it and not put me in the study, as the results of that study were becoming very conclusive that it did work. The study was later dropped and Herceptin is a regular treatment for her2nu positive cancer now.
Chemo then followed every two weeks for 8 treatments. I spent most of those weeks looking and feeling very ill. After chemo I had radiation for several weeks and then Herceptin, given through the port, every three weeks for 1 year. I also took tamoxifen for 5 years to block the estrogen that was feeding the tumor. No doctors could ever confirm the irregular cycle I was having was in any way related to cancer, I believe it was divine intervention as was the distinct impression to do an exam that day.
The cancer was found to have gone to the sentinel lymph nodes and was just beginning to go farther. In other words it was caught just in time as to not have a “sustain life” diagnosis. During this time I had much needed encouragement and help from family and friends, which included meals on chemo day, flowers once a month from neighbors, sisters, a niece and a mother who helped clean, a father who drove my boys to lessons and sports, a cousin who shared information as she had been through a similar situation, a sister who went with me to surgeries, and wonderful support and love from my husband and boys who were there for all of it and picked up any slack they could. I appreciated all the love and support and could not have gotten through the treatments without it.
Four years and 7 months after my first diagnosis I was at my regularly scheduled mammogram when they told me again that it showed signs of breast cancer in the same breast. This time it might only be calcifications which would mean pre-cancer. I was devastated again, but knew I was lucky to have it in the breast only, as a primary tumor, that this time, was not her2neu positive (Herceptin worked; glad I fought to get that). I now wanted to be more radical and elected to have a bilateral mastectomy with implant reconstruction. I was done taking risks with keeping any breast tissue. This reconstruction ultimately failed as the radiated skin just became more and more tight leaving me with a hard baseball type breast. I had a second reconstruction called microsurgical GAP flap, which used tissue from my back side and reconnected blood vessels making it living tissue. This result is much more natural and although a more difficult recovery, well worth the results.
Reconstruction is a personal choice, I feel more confident having done it, but others I know are fine not to go down the path. A hysterectomy with oophorectomy was my next step as I was trying to rid my body of estrogen that the cancer was feeding from. I was also prescribed an aromatase inhibitor for 5 years which further blocked estrogen in post-surgical menopausal women. Because of the chemo and medications I now have osteoporosis; however I think is a great tradeoff for life. Medications have side effects but so does no medication when it is required.
I am now 5 years from my second breast cancer diagnosis. My doctor considers 10 years a cure so I am half way there. Knowing what I know what would I do differently?
1. I would have the mastectomy on the first go. Radical saves lives!
2. I would have had yearly mammograms after first getting a dense breast letter from radiology.
3. I would never go to a diagnostic mammogram alone.
4. I would never have implant reconstruction on a radiated breast.
5. I would never miss a month of a self-exam because it can happen to you.
6. I would always follow distinct impressions with action.
7. If I were a person who had never had breast cancer or a family history of it, I would never, never, never miss a mammogram.
Cancer is no respecter of persons or boobs.
Below are other brave and beautiful women who are sharing their stories of breast shame, breast love, what they've learned from their breasts, what they mean to them, and how we as women we can learn to love our breasts and ourselves more! So don't stop here. Get clicking around, its a blog hop! I hope as you click around (and YES pin these different posts!) you will feel the importance of women loving themselves, the empowering effect sharing each of our voices will inspire others in some way. 1. Feel Great in 8 2. Life in My Heels 4. Diary of a Brown Eyed Girl 5. Utah Mom Connection 6. Lionesses at the Gate 7. Ashlee Marie 8. Tara Made It 9. Dreaming About Someday 10. MOMentity 11. Dana Ohlsen Photography 12. Lucky Blogs 13. A Ruffled Life 14. Laura's Crafty Life 15. Fry Sauce & Grits 16. Allred Design Are you ready to share your story? Make sure to tag your picture with the hashtag #LoveYourBoobsLoveYourself and @courtney_frysauceandgrits to participate in this powerful movement to inspire women to completely love themselves!