October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and "#youdonthavetosavethetatas"
Abbie’s Facebook post is a reflection of her personality — courageous and optimistic, yet humble. These are traits I had come to know during the time we served in the Coast Guard together. In conjunction with Abbie’s vibrant personality is her athletic prowess –star midfielder on the Varsity Soccer Team, record breaking 400m sprinter, snowboarder, mountain climber, Coast Guardswoman serving in Alaska…she was practically invincible.
So it came as a shock when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), at age 26.
Abbie found out when she went in for her routine “physical exam,” required by the Coast Guard. Her breast exam checked out fine, but the next day she felt a lump that had been agitated. She was persistent to have it biopsied despite being told that there was nothing to worry about; and her suspicion was correct.
Abbie called her boss, Matt, right away having known that his wife, Sue, had just undergone a preventative double mastectomy. They both helped her along the way, referring to Sue’s effective experience to recommend what doctors to see, hospital to go to, and next steps. Having this strong support and knowledge base was instrumental in guiding Abbie through this tough time.
“It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to think or worry about it. I had a mastectomy on the right side. It was what had to be done.”
Heartbreakingly, the worst was yet to come. Two years later cancer was found again, this time in her left breast, and the experience was that much harder to handle.
“The second time around was so much worse. Losing both breasts brought on so many new feelings, like realizing I would never be able to breastfeed...and it made me feel a little less like a woman."
Just when she was feeling her worst and considering the risks of trying to keep her left breast, Kevin, her now husband, said, “Don’t mess with it, just get rid of it.” Kevin knew the struggles of chemotherapy, having recently witnessed his father go through it. The bluntness of the statement was refreshing, and although it was not his decision, it was powerful for Abbie to hear this from the man she loves. This gave her the resolve to move forward with the mastectomy.
Through it all, Abbie never lost her athleticism, adventure, and free spirit. But there was a journey of feeling comfortable in her own body again.
It has been a year since Abbie completed reconstructive surgery, and she has continued to grow in her self-confidence. And for the first time in 5 years, she feels excited to dress shop and explore styles that highlight her femininity. Her confidence is contagious, beauty undeniable, with an inner strength that has no limits.
Abbie selflessly shares her story because it is so important for women to feel comfortable to discuss:
“Of course I never thought I would get breast cancer at my age. So ladies do your self-checks! With my experience, the worst feeling was anxiety of the unknown. I recommend reading The Upward Spiral, written by neuroscientist Alex Korb, who demystifies the causes of depression. But most of all, the best help is mentorship; having Sue, Matt, and Kevin and their own experiences involving cancer were invaluable to helping me feel prepared. I want to be this person for anyone else experiencing similar trials.”
We Love Abbie and are inspired by her resilient spirit, love for others, and fierce Womanhood!