I recently partnered with Dr. Rocco Piazza of Piazza Center for Plastic Surgery to gift one courageous woman with a glamour photo shoot. Kellie has overcome the mother of all life obstacles…breast cancer. She came out swinging.
Dr. Piazza’s office arranged for Kellie to do a Click Chick glamour session with me to celebrate her cancer-free and awesome body! Kendall of Mayhem Beauty gave her a professional airbrush makeup application, a glamour hair styling, you know….all the girly fun stuff that goes into making us woman beautifuler.
Last night, the Piazza Center had a VIP event, complete with champagne, hors d’oeuvres, product demonstrations, and a showcase of Kellie’s images. Everyone gathered as she shared her amazing story…not with sadness or defeat, but with confidence and even a little bit of comedy. What an inspiring story.
Take a moment to read Kellie’s story:::
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2011, at age 35. I found a lump in my right breast while showering. I had felt it for a few months, but I assumed it was just a cyst. There was no way I had cancer. I was a healthy marathon runner. In fact, I had just run the Houston Marathon when I first discovered the lump.
My husband is actually the one that pushed me to get it checked out by a doctor just to be sure. My doctor sent me for my first mammogram, which resulted in an ultrasound. Based on those findings I was told I needed to have it biopsied. I met my breast surgeon on May 12 for an in office biopsy. The next few days were long and filled with anxiety. I will never forget going to church on the Sunday before my cancer was confirmed. It was Cancer Survivor recognition Sunday. I thought, “Really God, I came to church to forget about cancer”. Looking back God was showing me ALL the people who beat this terrible disease. Along my journey, there were many God things that occurred.
5 days later, my life changed. On May 17, my son’s 11th birthday, I was told I had invasive ductal carcinoma. I was diagnosed with a very aggressive type of breast cancer called Triple Negative.
After my diagnosis things moved quickly; I had several appointments and I needed to make decisions on my treatment, but before May 17th, I didn’t even know there was more than one type of breast cancer. I quickly learned that there were several different types and differences between survival prognosis and treatments for each.
Only 10-20% of all breast cancers are Triple Negative. To date, TNBC has no other treatment options available beyond chemotherapy and radiation, so as much as I didn’t want chemo, it was my best defense at insuring a recurrence free life. Being a mom of 3 children, it was an easy decision to make. I was going to do everything possible to prevent my cancer from coming back and watch my children grow up. My doctor told me the chemo drugs I needed would cause my hair to fall out, which devastated me.
My course of treatment included a bilateral mastectomy, 4 rounds of chemotherapy, 37 radiation treatments, an oophorectomy (ovary removal), and several reconstructive surgeries. Due to my age of diagnosis and family history on my father’s side, I went through genetic testing. It was discovered that I am BRCA-1, which is a chromosomal defect. In simpler words, my breast cancer is genetic. My father and my brother also have the gene. So when my children are 18, they too will be tested for the DNA mutation. They have a 50/50 probability of carrying the gene, however, knowledge is power.
After I completed my cancer treatments, I focused on breast reconstruction. Dr. Piazza performed the tissue expander process during my mastectomy procedure. Due to much damage to the tissue on the radiated breast, Dr. Piazza used my latisimus muscle to reconstruct my right breast. After my breasts were reconstructed, skin was taken from my lower abdomen to use to reconstruct my nipples. The final touch was pigment tattoos. During the reconstruction process, I participated in physical therapy, which was crucial for my healing. I am very pleased with my final result!
I am currently cancer free and supposedly, life will become more normal and fears of recurrence will fade as time passes. For now, I have mostly good days without worrying too much. However, when a problem pops up, or I have a bad day and those fears come raging in full force, I still have an amazing support system of faith, friends and family.”
Thank you, Kellie, for going out of your comfort zone and allowing me to photograph you, and for sharing your story with me and so many others. You are truly inspiring.