Meet Danielle; co-founder of Metastatic Mammas

The wonderful Danielle (@raising_joey)

We’re super excited about today’s amazing guest blogger. We’re delighted to introduce you to Danielle. Danielle was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer in 2018 and, only a week later, she discovered that the cancer had spread to her liver. Danielle says lives in Kent with her husband, Tim, and their adorable daughter, Joey. She says that she does’t let her disease define her; she uses it as her motivation to live every day to the fullest with her wonderful family. You can find Danielle @raising_joey where she talks about all aspects of living with incurable cancer.

In addition to sharing her own story on social media, Danielle is also one of the co-founders of @metastatic_mammas

Here’s Danielle’s story:

“Since being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in November 2018 aged 29, life has taken some weird and wonderful turns as well as some pretty heartbreaking and terrifying ones too.

After picking myself up off the floor for the sake of my 6 month old daughter at the time, I decided that I wanted to be a part of the changing narrative that is life with terminal cancer.

When I first heard that my breast cancer was incurable I was in complete despair. I searched high and low on the internet for stories of survival from other women with the same diagnosis. However, I couldn’t find any.

What I did find was a whole host of ladies (and men) with all different types of cancers and they were all LIVING well with their disease.

I realised that I had to make this journey of mine through life, albeit a completely different one from what I had planned, a story that my daughter would be proud of.

I stopped moping around and started taking action. I had 6 rounds of chemotherapy as well as 2 continuous targeted therapy drugs, Herceptin and Pertuzumab that I still have now every 3 weeks. Whilst on chemo I decided that I wanted to raise money for cancer research by running 10k for Race for Life. I managed to get a group of us together and collectively we raised £6000. From there a fire was lit in me to keep sharing my story and keep raising money as my own defence against cancer.

I decided to apply to be the subject of a campaign called ‘The Worlds Most Precious Stone’ and actually got the part. A film crew from Paris followed my hairloss journey and made a lock of my hair into a yellow 1.59carat diamond to symbolise hope, strength and light. A parisian jewellery designer then created it into a diamond necklace that was on display in The Cancer Centre for Immunology in Southampton Hospital for breast cancer awareness month in October 2019. The film was shown on billboards in Times Square and online and managed to raise over £11,000. The diamond necklace was given to me to pass on to my daughter Joey.

Since then, I have had many opportunites to tell my story and raise even more funds for charity including on my own social media where I tell all sides of the story about life with incurable cancer; the good, the bad and the ugly. I proudly raised over £2,000 during the UK lockdown by running a marathon in my living room; it took 8 hours and over 66,000 steps but I wanted to show the world that even in times of complete uncertainty, anything is possible.

I receive messages everyday from young women telling me they are now more aware of their own bodies and actually check for changes in their breasts which I am so pleased to see.

However, the best messages I receive are from newly diagnosed cancer patients who have found my story and felt some hope that there can be life; a beautiful, happy life, for them too despite living with this cruel disease.

For anyone diagnosed with cancer there are really scary times, extremely tough days and complete uncertainty about the future. But they are all of the things that are out of our control. All of the beauty we find in life after the diagnosis, all the drive to make a difference, all the love we have for the simplest things and the happiness we find just to be here; they are all choices. We cannot control cancer… but cancer cannot control us either.”

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Danielle. You inspire us every day!

Introducing Becky who is working hard to raise awareness amongst young women of the symptoms of breast cancer

The lovely Beckie (@frombreastcancer_tonewnormal)

We have a weekend treat for you today: a brand new blog! Today’s guest blogger is the lovely Beckie. Beckie was diagnosed in 2019 when she was 26 years old. Beckie has written very openly for us today about her experiences from diagnosis, through chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. Beckie is now using social media to tell her story and raise awareness of the symptoms of breast cancer amongst young women. You can find Beckie on Instagram @frombreastcancer_tonewnormal.

Here’s Beckie’s story:-

“My name is Beckie and this is my personal experience of going through breast cancer at young age.

In December 2018 I was with my new boyfriend and he found a lump in my right boob. He wanted me to get it checked by my GP but I wasn’t worried; I was on a birth control pill so I reassured him. I said, “Babe it’ll just be from the pill, as they can make your boobs change like they change when I’m on my monthly”.

Weeks went by I was starting my new job as Christmas Sales Assistant. I noticed yellow discharge coming out of my right nipple. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get in to see my doctor because it was Christmas season and everything was so busy.

So then 2019 came round. It was January and I was worried. I decided to ring my local GP but I couldn’t get through. I decided to take matters into my own hands and took the bus to the Walk in Centre. I remember filling in paperwork about what symptoms I was having and then I got called in to see a nurse. She asked me lots of questions: was I pregnant? When was my last period? Was there any family history of breast cancer?

I told her I wasn’t pregnant and I was due to start my period shortly. And I did have a family history of breast cancer. My Nan had had breast cancer but we weren’t aware of any genetic mutations or hereditary factors in my family.

Then the nurse asked me to walk to the bed. She drew the curtains so I could take my top off and bra and she examined me from my left breast asking if it felt normal to me and it did! She then moved to the right of my chest and she could feel the lump and then she could see my nipple leaking. Then she got me to sit up so she could feel my armpit to feel for any swallow lymphatic nodes and lumps. She asked for me to get dressed and sit back on the chair next to her desk. She told me that she would speak to my GP urgently as she was concerned that it was something sinister.

I received an appointment to be seen at the Breast Unit at Birmingham Women’s Hospital at the end of January.

I had another examination at the Breast Unit, similar to the examination the nurse had carried out at the Walk in Centre. I also had a mammogram, ultrasound and needle core biopsy to collect samples to see what was going on.

After all the tests, the doctors told me that whatever it was, it needed to come out! This made me think of all sorts – my mind was all over the place.

I received the results of all the investigations in February. The news was devastating; at just 26 years old I had Triple Negative Breast Cancer at grade 3 and stage 2. My doctors told me that this type of cancer isn’t fed on hormones. They said that sometimes this cancer is related to gene mutations, like BRCA1 and 2 and PALB2 so the  specialist and my breast  cancer nurse wanted me to have some genetic testing due to my young age. I received the results of the genetic testing later in the year – they all came back negative.

My doctors they said the cancer was treatable and curable as I caught it in time to have chemotherapy, surgery and then radiotherapy. The first step was to have chemotherapy to shrink the size of the tumour.

I was also asked if I wanted to take part on a trial looking at selecting chemotherapy before surgery. (The ROSCO trial). I wanted to help with the research.

Lots of hospital letters started to arrive. In mid-March 2019 I started my chemotherapy. I had 1 cycle with 5 sessions for every 3 weeks. My last chemo was in May 2019.

My surgery took place on 14th June 2019. I had a single mastectomy without reconstruction. Some people have asked me why I didn’t want to have reconstruction. For me, I felt “what’s the point?” I was worried it might come back and they wouldn’t be able to see it until too late.

I didn’t mind being flat one sided – I’ve still got my left boob! I feel that boobs don’t define you as a person.

When I had the surgery, I also had 5 lymph nodes out to see if the cancer had spread. I received the results in July and fortunately all 5 lymph nodes were clear. No cancer cells! It was a major relief as I hadn’t had a full body scan when I was diagnosed. I also found out that I had had a complete pathological response to chemotherapy – I didn’t need a second cycle!

Then I started my last ever treatment which was radiotherapy. I had 15 sessions in total and my last session was in September 2019.

Now, in 2020, I can’t believe the journey I went through last year. I can’t believe I’m still free from cancer. I’m due to have my first ever mammogram following my diagnosis and I’m looking forward to celebrating the “all clear” after that!

My mission now is to share my story to help to raise awareness in young women and men of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

I hope you all enjoy reading my journey, feel free to add me on my Instagram!”

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today, Beckie. You’re doing amazing work in sharing your experiences and raising awareness of the symptoms to watch for.

Introducing Mandy; a blogger, Coppafeel charity trekker and self confessed history and art nerd!

The wonderful Mandy (@mrsachard)

This week seems to be rushing by in such a blur! It’s Wednesday already and that means it’s time to introduce another of our wonderful guest bloggers. Today we’re thrilled to have a blog from the lovely Mandy (@mrsachard).

Normally at this stage we would include a little bio to get to know our blogger a bit better but Mandy has introduced herself so well that we’ll get straight to it!

Without further ado, here’s Mandy:

“Hi I’m Mandy, 42 year old mother of two boys (12 & 9), wife to Aaron, a Chartered Surveyor by profession but a History & Art nerd in my spare time.  I’ve also recently taken up a lot more walking due to the fact that like my fellow Valiant Lingerie guest blogger Laura I’m taking on the 100km Sahara Desert Trek for the charity Coppafeel, which has now been moved to March 2021 – phew – more time to train!

What’s the reason for taking on such a massive challenge you may well ask! Well, it’s simple really – I’m a cancer survivor when there are so many who haven’t been as lucky so I want to do everything I can, not just to spread a positive post cancer message but also get the word out there about how fundamental it is to know your body, regularly check and get any changes looked at straight away.

I was diagnosed with Mucinous Carcinoma (MC) in August 2016, just after my 39th Birthday.  I’d found a marble sized lump which was also causing an achy pain in my left armpit.  MC is rare being found in approx. only 2% of breast cancer diagnosis.  I was somewhat reassured when my surgeon initially told me that MC is generally “well behaved” and slow growing. 

Unfortunately the MC which had taken up residence in my left breast was clearly going through a rebellious phase, further tests revealed it was behaving far more aggressively than expected and it had already spread into one of my lymph nodes, hence the lump in my armpit. 

I underwent a left side skin and nipple sparing mastectomy with axillary lymph node clearance and immediate implant and latissimus dorsi muscle reconstruction.  This was followed by 4 months of chemotherapy, 3 weeks of radiotherapy and tamoxifen for 10 years.  In Nov 2018 I went under the knife again to have a mastopexy and implant on the right-hand side for symmetry.

Whilst it may sound strange, I found the active treatment phase possibly the easiest to deal with. Whilst there are dark and scary times, you simply don’t have time to dwell on them because you have a schedule of treatments and appointments getting you through day to day, week to week and you are surrounded by a safety net of health professionals with you every step of the way.  I look back and 2016/2017 memories are a drug addled haze, of course I wouldn’t wish any of it on my worst enemy, but you have no option but to crack on and get through it. 

I chose writing as an outlet once I’d finished chemo, I started a Facebook blog “The Full Chard” as a way of trying to find my way back to my old self.  I wasn’t sure how that was going to turn out, but the writing was cathartic, I found humour in a lot of what I’d been through and I wanted to share something of my experience with others.

Far more difficult was the aftermath.  I remember thinking at my last radiotherapy appointment when I was taken into a side room afterwards and effectively “cut loose” until my 6 month check-up “what now”? 

Suddenly, that safety net you’ve known for the best part of a year is gone and whether intentional or not, the expectation from everyone around you is that you should be ecstatic, happy and looking forward to getting back to “normal”…….whatever that is.  I tried, I really did, I didn’t want to let anyone down, I was back at work 2 weeks after my last radiotherapy session, back doing school runs, still writing funny anecdotes on my blog.  I managed 6 months but during that time my mental health deteriorated pretty badly.  When I read my blog back now, its fairly obvious things weren’t quite right for quite a while.  It took a long time to ask for the help I knew I needed.  Ultimately I was suffering with PTSD, my self-worth was lower than in my boots, I was having suicidal thoughts – yes even I found that ironic when I considered how determined I was to beat the cancer during treatment.  I felt so alone but later discovered it is incredibly common to feel that way after treatment.  That made me wonder why more women aren’t warned about the potential for it earlier on during active treatment so it doesn’t come as quite so much as a shock.    

My mental state wasn’t helped when early on in my attempts to “get back to normal” I went shopping for new bras with my mother in law.  The experience resulted in something of a rant on my blog.

I had to dispose of all my bras following my surgery because it’s not advisable to wear ones with underwire and all my pre-cancer bras were underwired. I had since been living in a handful of support crop tops and a post mastectomy bra from M&S which while perfectly fine practically weren’t exactly floating mine or my hubby’s boat.

I didn’t strictly need a post-surgery bra because I didn’t have prosthetics or knitted knockers to put in the pockets provided. My requirements, a non-underwired but supportive with a bit of padding and ideally something pretty, perhaps satiny or lacy, to make a relatively young women look and feel desirable you might think would be straightforward.

How wrong was I! I couldn’t find a single thing that didn’t resemble the kind of boulder holder you imagine you might be wearing when you’re also putting your false teeth in a glass by your bed – not the kind of look I wanted. Other than that, it was your very average, very plain T shirt bra, no lace, satin or anything remotely pretty to be seen.  There were a few nice lacy bralets but they had no padding or support of any kind.

The issue I had was that I was pre my symmetry surgery at the time. The naughty boob which tried to kill me had gone and its replacement needed no help what-so-ever, she was as perky as you like. She would have looked fabulous in a cheeky little bralet. The one that didn’t try to kill me however,  bless her, was descending further and further towards my belly button every day so she needed quite a lot of extra help in the form of moulding or padding to compete with her new friend next door.

I went in so many stores and looked online and there was nothing, not a thing that I would consider remotely close to what would make me feel confident and comfortable and I just couldn’t understand why. In every single store I went in I explained what I was looking for and why, in one, I was offered a bikini as an alternative. In another it was suggested that I could choose to ignore the medical advice I’d been given and just wear underwired anyway! I felt myself getting upset and had to leave.

What you might consider a relatively minor issue I suppose actually resulted in something of an epiphany, not in a wholly good way at the time, I came to the conclusion that with the best will in the world, normal, or at least most people’s experience of something normal like buying a bra was not something I could aspire to anymore. My boobs didn’t conform to what the bra makers deemed to be their “market”, not only that but I couldn’t and didn’t want to conform to everyone else’s idea of what I should be feeling or thinking.

It was a defining moment in my recovery, I learned that my old “normal” wasn’t…….couldn’t be where I was headed.  As you can imagine that was incredibly scary and found myself going through a grieving process for the old “me”.  But I knew I had to let her go and accept I wouldn’t find her again, however hard I looked. 

What I can say now, however hard that period of my life was, I am all the better for it now.  It has taken a lot of time, pain, heartache, intensely feeling my way to who I am now (by no means the finished product…….but are any of us?).  It may sound strange but I am grateful to cancer and I really quite like who I am now.  In some ways I am more tolerant, I no longer sweat the small stuff, in others I am less so, not a bad balance to strike in my opinion.  I appreciate so much more than I did before, I am more selfish when it comes to self-care and ensuring my needs are met (usually with a bit of quiet and a good book) but my deep desire to help others who may find themselves in the same position is strong and empowering.

Where my boobs are concerned, following my symmetry surgery my right girl doesn’t need quite as much help as she did, she’s by no means perfectly symmetrical with her sister on the left, in fact she’s now quite a bit bigger since they didn’t take any breast tissue out of that side.  I am still however, searching for a bra that does the job my old bra’s used to and I’m so excited to see what Ellie and her team are beavering away to produce.”

Thank you, Mandy, for sharing your wonderful writing with us all. We suspect Mandy’s experiences and feelings of being “cut loose” after treatment will feel familiar to many.

And how many of us recognise Mandy’s experiences of bra hunting after surgery?! Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimised by bland, unflattering post-surgery lingerie! Not for much longer!

Introducing Tracy; Chief Flattie and Boobless Thrifter

The beautiful Tracy aka @goingflat

Can you believe it’s Friday already? It’s very nearly the weekend and we have another fabulous guest blog for you today.

We’re so excited to introduce Tracy who describes herself as Chief Flattie and Boobless Thrifter. Tracy was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2007 when she was 37. Her mission now is to support women on their post-mastectomy journey to find their fashion voice and feel great about themselves again. As you can imagine, this mission appeals to us here at Valiant!

You can find Tracy on Instagram @goingflat, on her website here or by e-mail at goingflatfashions@gmail.com.

Without further ado, here is Tracy in her own words:

“What is beauty?

In so many ways, our perceptions of beauty are defined by the external. Media, culture, people we know, and people we don’t know tell us what is beautiful. And tell us what we should find beautiful in our own selves and in others.

When things related to our external selves start to change – we get a few new wrinkles, we gain some extra pounds, we get a bad haircut, or we undergo a surgery or trauma that changes our appearance – we look in the mirror and this detail sometimes leads us to think we are less beautiful.

When I had my explant surgery, after 5 years of living with implants after breast cancer treatment, I had the opposite experience. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I looked BETTER. Not only was this unexpected, it was life changing. And it ultimately led me to start my current post-mastectomy beauty and fashion project, Going Flat Fashions.

To understand where I’m coming from: I was an awkward child, an “artsy & weird” teenager, which evolved into a “quirky & cool” adult. I always thought I was “fat”, I always thought my body looked wrong in everything I ever put on, and I always, always, always wished I looked like someone else. I wanted to look like Debbie Harry, or Patti Smith, or Uma Thurman. My hatred of my body from the outside led to a pretty serious hatred of myself on the inside. Full disclosure.

When I “went flat”, it was a surprising liberation from the baggage of my body, and all those years of body issues. Being rid of half a decade of pain from having the implants probably didn’t hurt, either. To celebrate my new shape, I went shopping…a lot. I’ve always been an avid thrifter, and with this new body joy, I hit the thrift stores with a mission!! I started to love wearing clothes and experimenting with fashion. And most importantly, I started to really love myself. I still have my down days, but my general overall feeling about myself is that I really am beautiful.

As I discovered my own beauty, I encountered so many women online and in person who had gone through mastectomy surgery who were bogged down by the beauty myth. Years of trying to accept their bodies before mastectomy, compounded with the new reality of coming to terms with the surgery, was taking a huge toll on their self-esteem.

I felt like I could do something to help. I wanted to give back to the community, and to use my experience to send a message that the definition of beauty is wide and inclusive. In response to what I saw as a big need in the community, I started Going Flat Fashions in October of 2019.

Going Flat offers virtual personal wardrobe styling services and a thrifted clothing experience catered to women who opt-out of reconstruction. My mission is to help guide women on their post-mastectomy journey to finding their new fashion voice, and I’ve created a safe space for them to reimagine their new post-op life. I provide wardrobe styling services on a virtual platform with curated, vintage, consignment, and thrifted clothing selected specifically for women who have chosen to “go flat” after mastectomy. The site and the services are open to flatties and non-flatties alike.

I feel like I’m empowering women and helping them love their bodies no matter what the shape. After mastectomy, women are told that ‘clothes won’t fit them properly’, that they won’t be ‘sexy or desirable’, and I want to help them understand that this is truly not the case.

Through my work with Going Flat Fashions, I have unwittingly become an advocate, and a source of support for the women who benefit immensely from the experience, gaining confidence and taking steps toward reclaiming their bodies after surgery. It is an amazing feeling to help others in this way, and I look forward to working with more women in the future to help them feel and look beautiful.”

Thank you so much, Tracy, both for your wonderful blog but also for everything you do to support other women in feeling good about themselves post cancer and post surgery.

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Introducing Ivania who talks about the cathartic act of writing

The wonderful Ivania (@borrongonga)

Today we have the honour of introducing you to Ivania who has written a moving blog for us about her experiences following her diagnosis of breast cancer fourteen years ago.

Following her diagnosis, Ivania felt the loneliness that will be very familiar to so many of us as she didn’t know of anyone her age who was going through (or had gone through) breast cancer treatment.

Ivania took matters into her own hands five years ago and started a blog to document her experiences. She called her blog “Borrongonga” which is what her dad called her when she was a little girl.

Ivania told us that she wanted to write about her experiences, educate people about the challenges faced by young women diagnosed with this disease, and also help other women have a successful voyage during breast cancer treatment. We think this will strike a chord with many of you who are doing the same thing and are finding support and companionship in the community of amazing women out there on social media.

You can find Ivania on Instagram @borrongonga.

Here’s what Ivania has written for us today:

“Fourteen years ago, my life was apparently “perfect”. I was married to a nice guy, we had good health, we made a good living together, we traveled often, and we had good friends.

In 2006, we felt we were ready to start a family, I had a miscarriage in March and that September I received the terrible news that I had breast cancer.

There isn’t any required breast cancer screening for women under 40 in the United States. I was not one to do self-examinations and I still don’t; but for some strange reason, I found the lump myself.

I was 31 when I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. I did not know anything about cancer, at least anything good. I was not prepared to be sick. I was not ready to give up. I wanted to fight, but at that moment I did not think it was slightly conceivable to win any battle. I was already defeated because I did not know anything. I was blind.

Not knowing is perhaps your biggest enemy.

I think about the day when I first found out about my diagnosis and the feelings of distress, panic, anxiety, shock, and stress immediately come back. I realized that the wrong group of doctors were handling my case, so I decided to contact a good friend who worked at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, MA. He pointed me in the right direction and recommended an Oncology surgeon right there at MGH.

It was 6:00pm on a Friday when I got to the hospital. All the staff were gone, but my surgeon was waiting for me. I spent about an hour with her and learned a lot about breast cancer: What it is, where it is located, how it progresses, etc.

She helped me understand everything with drawings and gave the most sincere and hopeful words. I loved her. I left the hospital feeling a tad better. I can’t say that I was super positive or optimistic, but at least I understood my disease and my options. I was educated.

The following week, I was scheduled to get an MRI to know the exact location of the tumor. After that, I had a date for surgery. My doctor successfully removed the tumor and 19 lymph nodes.

That was the easy part, then the hard work began.

After slightly recovering from surgery, I met with an oncologist – also at MGH. We discussed what my treatment was going to be like for the next 6 years. This included chemotherapy, Herceptin, radiation therapy and 5 years on a drug called Tamoxifen.

If you are at your prime for childbearing, and your treatment includes chemotherapy and Tamoxifen, then you should/must see a fertility doctor before starting chemotherapy.

I met with a fertility doctor, who had nothing to do with my treatment, and gave me the spiel about the hypothetical opportunity to become a mom through in vitro fertilization… In six years!

No, thank you.

How could I think about being a mom when my own life was at stake?

At that time, it was my personal decision to not pursue fertility treatments and to start chemotherapy ASAP. Being a mom, a healthy one, could wait.

I started chemotherapy as planned on a Monday morning. I showed up bright and early to my first treatment. At MGH a nurse is appointed to you and will be your chaperone throughout your treatment. The drill is pretty much the same every time – weight check, blood work, then treatment.

I guess a dreaded part of going through chemotherapy for many women is losing their hair. It is pretty easy to understand why. Hair is a sign of femininity. Losing your hair makes you look vulnerable and easy to label as someone who is sick.

Buying a wig to regain what you’ve lost is not a simple, straightforward solution – it’s not the same as the real thing. I got fitted for a synthetic wig, which I only wore once. Instead I wore scarves, which I found to be very easy and versatile. I had a few regular scarves that I just tied around my head, but my personal favorite was one that I could tie on top.

I lost my hair a few days after my second treatment. Knowing I would lose it, I decided to cut it off beforehand. I thought it would make seeing it fall out be less challenging.

Honestly, losing my hair did not faze me. I was more concerned about reaching a chemically induced menopause at 32.

My periods did stop after my second treatment. My doctors were not sure if they were ever going to come back. For the first time in my life, I wanted to get my period. I started to despair about the idea of ever having a biological family.

Getting breast cancer at 31 brought my world to a crashing halt and forced me to reevaluate my husband, my job, my life and what I wanted out of it.

I understood that I deserved to be with someone who shared my joie de vivre, my craziness, my laughter and my essence. I also learned that life is too short and that my wish was to share, in an unconditional way, a life project with a person with whom I could be myself with – a partner, not a boss.

Sometimes I can’t help but I wonder what went wrong in my marriage and if divorcing was inevitable, or if breast cancer had something to do with it. Interestingly enough, I think going through that ordeal made me understand that we were not right for each other. Breast cancer brought us together and distanced us at the same time.

My treatment lasted a year and a half, and that’s when we were the strongest as a couple. After treatment, I realized that we did not see life the same way. I wanted to find a way to make us strong as a couple again. I knew he wanted a family; but starting a biological one was not going to be an option for a while.

It was a very difficult time and a challenging situation, but probably the most convincing thing for me was to think: “I didn’t survive to have an existence where I don’t feel like I am living at all.” It took me two years to make a final decision about my marriage, but today I have no regrets about it.

After my divorce in 2010, I promised myself that I would always think about myself first. This is how my pursuit of happiness began. Unfortunately, I ran into situations where I didn’t make the best decisions.

I was meeting new people, but not the type of men I wanted to be with long term. Even though I was very busy at work, that was not enough distraction to keep my mind occupied. Most importantly, I felt very lonely and loneliness can be your worst counselor at times.⠀⠀⠀

I was seeing someone for about 2 years and one day I found out I was pregnant. Having gratitude for not feeling lonely and being with someone, made me think I was happy enough and in love with him. All of that and the pregnancy hormones made me believe that we could play house together.

And once again, I was wrong.

Today, fourteen years later, I don’t have my life figured out by any means; but all of this self-discovery led me to become a mom, the most rewarding experience of my life. I did go through a bad time, but I became a mom at the ‘right’ time. My six-year old son has brought so much joy to my life and has given me the most important reason to live.

He is the engine that keeps me alive. Thanks to him, I have a valid justification to strive for better things, avoid harmful situations, stay fit and live a healthy lifestyle.

I never thought about writing about my personal experience with breast cancer, but I thought that my story could raise awareness and help other young women going through the same thing I went through in 2006.

This is how “Borrongonga” – my personal blog – was born about 5 years ago, after a casual conversation during lunch with a friend. It is a blog that narrates my experience going through breast cancer, my recovery, my divorce, and becoming a mom 8 years after cancer.

Since I moved back to Colombia, after living in the United States for 15 years, writing became a cathartic exercise for me. So now I make it a habit to write about valuable life lessons, survivorship, motherhood, relationships, marriage, love, and the life I dream of.

2018 was a wonderful year for me because I gained closure to a lot of chapters in my life. I started working again, I finally forgave myself for my past decisions, I healed, I established an order of priorities in my life, and I accepted my single mom status.

Even though I haven’t been in a relationship for a while, I feel I’ve healed. I am ready to be in one with a person who truly loves and values me and, most importantly, respects who I am.

I am at my best moment as a woman, because I’ve learned to love myself, and am capable of having better control of my feelings and emotions. Even though I am still working on finding that almost perfect balance – where I am in full control of my decisions in a rational and assertive way; I would not want to lose my essence – a combination between a woman with a modern front and an inner chaste persona, who doesn’t want to forget about herself.”

Thank you, Ivania, for sharing your story. It is always a pleasure to connect with like minded women who feel as strongly as we do about supporting each other and sharing our stories.