Did You Know? Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women worldwide + 1 in 8 women receive a breast cancer diagnosis.
As a company that is "for women, and by women", we feel that it is our duty to look out for one another and encourage you to check yourself during October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month.) Here are a few great resources courtesy of the Susan G. Komen Foundation: https://www.komen.org/breast-cancer/.
We are sharing HOPE this month!
Meet: Jacinda, A TSF follower who reached out to our Instagram to share her story with us in the hopes to inspire others and be a part of our mission to support, encourage and champion woman.
"Until recently, I have not spoken about my breast cancer diagnosis and the aftermath with anyone outside of a small group of friends and family. I have extreme guilt surrounding my own journey and have to remind myself that everyone’s experience is their own. Daily, I’m learning to acknowledge and respect my own experience with breast cancer. But here we are, and I am taking a leap.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2021 after finding a pea sized lump in my breast, a lump that had been there for a while. The lump was peculiar in size and location. Everyone, my general practitioner, my surgeon, said it was nothing, we found out quickly that it was indeed something. My surgeon called me after 5 p.m. on a Friday to tell me he was sorry and that I had breast cancer. He didn’t ask if I was alone or if I was driving until later as I physically dropped to the floor and heard nothing he was saying. Something about someone calling me Monday, we hung up and I think I screamed. I don’t remember much else. I’ve had to ask people what I said, how I sounded, many said the same thing, numb, detached, terrified.
A few days later I was in the hospital with my surgeon and my best friend of thirty-seven years. My doctor was telling us about what he was planning to do, he asked us questions and there was a part of us that didn’t believe this was happening and if it was, we were not retaining any of the information coming at us.
Doctors often suggest that you bring someone with you to appointments, but nothing ever fully prepares you for any of this and focusing on all words became very overwhelming for everyone involved. I do not remember anything about that meeting other than I was scheduled to have surgery on March 4, 2021. This was not happening, I kept thinking. And then it was March 4, 2021, and I was being injected, poked, prodded by strangers. They kept asking me questions, amping up my anxiety, we asked them to stop, it didn’t really stop.
Breast cancer is humiliating, at least it has been for me, you are literally naked from the waist up in front of so many people, they are touching you, staring at you, modesty goes out the window and it’s disgusting.
At some point, I realized I’d now become a member of a club I never asked for admission to. There was a nonstop flow of people, questions, so many questions and people touching me, I was overwhelmed and then I was wheeled into the operating room. I found out when I woke up that I had a partial mastectomy as well as lymph node removal for staging purposes. Someone somewhere must have said those words to me prior, but I must have blocked them out and hearing them at that time felt like a punch to the stomach. What the hell happened to me? When I was awake, I was in excruciating in pain, nauseous, and wrapped tightly in a compression garment that I refer to as my “boobie suit” with a drain sticking out of me and everything I knew before was not the same.
I was then sent home, things were a blur and only a few days later the onslaught of oncology, radiology, second options, follow ups, genetic testing and so on came with a vengeance. A few days after my surgery, I met with my radiology oncologist, I called him Dr. Glow Bug. He walked through the door and recognized the state I was in, sent me home, said this was too much for one day, told me to sleep, he’d call me when he needed me. He did call and he became my thought partner in every decision I made. He was by my side until he retired, and I will be forever grateful that man. He talked to me, he heard me, he supported me, he encouraged me, he made me feel safe, he shared information with me, he answered my questions ten times, he understood my fears, he accepted my tenacity and my deep appreciation for brutal honestly, and he was one of my biggest champions.
After much conversation, research and a second opinion, I made some decisions that were not the preferred method of treatment, but they were my decisions. To this day, I have never once wavered in my decisions. After radiation, I dropped weight fast and was exhausted all the time, I had no appetite and I was scared. I felt like my life was gone, I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to who had experienced anything like this. I felt alone and so incredibly isolated.
Everything had happened to my body so fast, and I was still processing my diagnosis. I was overwhelmed, terrified by all of this but I also felt guilty because I was alive, I still do. I didn’t have chemotherapy and like I said, I declined the other treatment recommended to me by my doctors.
I feel shame around my experience because honestly, when you hear the stories about breast cancer, while never easy, I’ve felt like my experience doesn’t compare to what other women have gone through. I struggle with this constantly.
Daily, there were calls, doctor appointments, conversations repeatedly, nonstop, and at some point, I just tucked into my own world and began to wither away, literally. And then, a friend of mine stepped in, supportive, kind, loving, gentle but firm, she would not allow me to fall any further. I wanted to sleep, I was going days at a time without eating, I had no appetite but eventually with her support, I picked up my head and I started to go to the gym again, walking, and I even started to lift some light weights.
After a lot of thought and research, I found a coach to work with me. Sky (@skydoesfitness) understood the nuances of my health and understood me. We started to officially work together in January of 2023, in many ways he saved me from turning any further inward and drowning in despair.
Ten months later, I’ve gained and kept on the weight, I’m looking at competing next year, if my body allows me. I look completely different than I did less than a year ago so now when people look at me, they don’t see sickness, they see a healthy, strong woman. I have a long way to go but I never thought I’d be where I am right now and I certainly never thought I’d be thinking about competing but, why not? This is my life and I’m going to do what I want to do.
My diagnosis was running my life, it doesn’t anymore and it’s definitely not who I am. However, it is something I am still trying to figure out how to move through in a way that feels safe and comfortable for me. My diagnosis changed me in so many ways and some of those changes have been a beautiful gift.
To anyone struggling with anything similar, ask questions, educate yourself and make the decisions that feel comfortable for you.
Cancer is terrifying and so many conversations and decisions are had and made in a fearful space because cancer is scary. I’m exhausted every day an exhaustion that I simply cannot explain but it is all consuming. I’m in pain every single day from the hell my body has endured but I’m not crawling back into bed anytime soon. I have goals, and a gorgeous life to live. Onward and upward."
Thank you Jacinda for allowing us to share your story! It's our hope at The Shoe Fairy that by sharing more about this disease and those who have overcome it, it will give someone the strength that they need.