Finding light in the darkness of a breast cancer diagnosis
When a breast cancer diagnosis strikes, it can be hard to know where to turn to. We recently spoke with survivor Trish Michelle to hear of her experience, and how finding a like-minded community has changed her life.
This October, we’ve partnered with The Breasties to shine a light on the work of their incredible community in supporting those affected by cancer, hearing their stories, and raising money for vital patient support resources through the #MagTeamChallenge.
We’ve already heard from the co-founders about why they set up the community, but what is it like to be a Breastie?
We recently spoke to one of their members, Trish Michelle, to hear her breast cancer story – and how The Breasties provided a community home for her, and many others like her.
“I knew right away that something was wrong”
It all started with a cough. At the age of 36, whilst passing her hand across her chest to suppress it, Trish felt a small lump in her breast. With a family history of cancer – her young son had been diagnosed with leukaemia only two years prior - she instantly sought out a professional opinion.
After initially facing resistance from her physician, it was agreed that she should receive a mammogram. Unfortunately, the results showed that cancer was present, and she was diagnosed with stage one invasive ductal carcinoma of the right breast.
Trish opted for a double mastectomy with DIEP flap surgery to remove the cancer, during which her surgeon identified another area of concern.
“On the operating table, my plastic surgeon found a second cancer in a completely different location from the initial tumor. I was upstaged from stage one to stage three and at that point everyone decided, ‘We can't be sure, let's throw the book at it’” said Trish.
Thankfully, the surgery and subsequent treatment was a success, and Trish is now cancer free. But after 'survival', what comes next?
Finding an understanding support network
Trish was keen to explain that her family had been very supportive during her diagnosis and treatment - however found that many of them expected life to go back to normal once she’d been given the all clear.
“They don’t understand - and neither do you until you're in it, what survivorship means, because now you're off in the wild by yourself. You're trying to come to grips with whether headaches are just headaches.” said Trish.
She felt like she needed to find a network of people who understood exactly what she was going through. Somewhere to share her thoughts, feelings, and fears for the future with those who found themselves in the same place.
That’s where The Breasties came in. Trish found the group online and suddenly everything changed for her.
Being part of their community has enabled her to learn from others in her position, and take on information which she bring to discussions with her medical team regarding treatment, allowing her to feel more in control.
“It has really empowered me. Now, I'm the bigger sister to a lot of, unfortunately newer and younger people who are being diagnosed and can share my advice with them”Trish Michelle, Breast Cancer Survivor
The power of sharing in-person experiences
The Breasties hold various event throughout the year which bring their community members together to challenge their bodies and minds.
Trish explained how the first time she really felt part of the Breasties community was when she attended ‘Camp Breastie’ in 2019, the community’s biggest event to date. Over 500 people from across the US and overseas came together for a weekend of wellness and experience sharing.
It provided Trish with the opportunity to speak freely and openly in front of peers. “I remember telling my story and just feeling some sort of weight that was on me through all treatment and all the frustrations just come crumbling down, and being so warmly embraced,”
"Everyone is excited to be there, no one wants to leave because it's so accepting. It’s truly a community, by the community, for the community”Trish Michelle, Breast Cancer Survivor
Since then, Trish has continued to attend most Breasties meetings, both online and in-person. She believes that being able to meet those people in-person that you have made a connection with virtually is vastly beneficial for the community, enabling them to feel completely accepted and understood.
Become part of this inspiring community
The Breasties are not just an organization for those navigating their way physically and mentally through breast cancer; it welcomes everyone, including those undergoing preventative surgery and carers. This is an all-inclusive community.
Earlier this month they launched a brand new app to allow more people from around the world to become part of their movement. It’s just another brick in this wholesome home the community are building, and Trish has nothing but praise for the work of the co-founders.
“There aren't enough words of thanks that I can give to Bri, Allie and Paige, for creating this community. It’s a space where I and so many others feel seen and recognized. They are life changers for me so I'm indebted to them forever,”