A pretty funny actress with a pretty amazingly strong & determined character
There are a lot of ways you can learn things about breast cancer. You can browse for articles online, read books, watch movies, however I believe the best (if I may use that word in this context, it sounds a little macabre, but hear me out) way to learn is from real women who’ve been through it. You’re going to go ahead and ask me why, why would you want to do that. Yes, it’s fucking heartbreaking, I agree. Asking these questions has probably been as hard for me as it was for the amazing ladies I’ve interviewed to answer. But a real story is worth a lot more than a dramatic rom-com or an overly sensationalised documentary – because they tell it as it is. The story of a real experience can be heartbreaking, but so is the reality that 1 in 8 women will be affected by breast cancer. Sometimes being real is more important than being comfortable. Cancer sucks, but it’s up to you to find a way to cope with it. Today we’re learning from Aniela’s way.
1. When did you find out you have cancer and what was your first reaction? What were the thoughts going through your head?
I found out that I had cancer on Sept. 30th at around 4:30pm. It is one of those moments that you don’t forget. It happened in a phone call from my doctor (which I filmed). You can watch that moment here https://youtu.be/-Q5hXi4rKyk. You asked what was going through my head, well…”F#$%, [email protected], Oh my GOD, [email protected], F#$%, F#$% ,F#$%, F#$%, F#$%, F#$%, F#$%, F#$%!!!!”
2. How did finding out you have cancer change your life? What about your relationship with your friends and family?
My mother died of ovarian cancer the year before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, I was in the process of getting a preventative double mastectomy when I was diagnosed (3 days before my appointment to make the date). In a way, it confirmed my choice and helped removed all of the doubts I was having. Cancer changed everything in my life and nothing, all at the same time. Over a year out, I am still the same person just clearer about my wants and now I don’t give a F#$% about the little things. I look different but the inner me is the same.
3. What were the next steps you took in fighting it?
I don’t consider it a fight, I look at as an education and each step was a different course. I had a surgery course which included a double mastectomy, reconstruction, port insertion and removal, and a complete hysterectomy. There was the chemo course that took 4 months and had 13 classes. I added in some electives; oil pulling, art therapy, vitamin supplements, etc.
4. Did you have to get a mastectomy?
I did get a mastectomy and I don’t think it can not affect your body image but the strange thing was there were moments where I felt more beautiful after my mastectomy than I did before because I saw how much my body loved me by healing and then there were times when I would break down and feel broken. To help me reincorporate the new version of myself, I created a photo series with the help of Blast ‘Em Photography and two amazing make-up artists, Tiffany Alfonso and Brynn Berg. We used humor and color to show the stages of my mastectomy, which helped me heal myself and in turn, I found out it helped other women heal when they saw it.
5. There are women out there who refuse or are terrified of getting mastectomies because they fear no man will ever love them again. What is your opinion on this and what would you tell a woman if she confessed she felt like this to you?
That is a valid feeling. I can’t really answer into that. I have been with my husband since we were 15 years old. He was loving, gentle, and so kind when it came to the changes. I also had a hysterectomy and am in menopause, so a lot changed for us. I don’t know what the experience would have been like without him. I have spoken to women who have been single and they have told me that in a way it helped them find a great guy because it weeds out the jerks.
6. What was the hardest moment in your battle?
Hardest moment was before my own cancer. It was when my mother passed from cancer. That was harder than having cancer myself.
7. What are some of the things that brought you comfort while you were fighting this horrible illness?
Laughter, being silly, having slumber parties with my female friends when my husband had to go on business trips, inviting a new friend to each chemo, getting vulnerable, dancing at my doctor’s appointments, meditating, crying, beans and rice from Popeyes.
8. Did the people around you treat you differently because of the cancer? If so, how?
People tried to treat me differently but I would just call them out on the pity voice. People take the lead from the person with cancer. There were also moments that I loved being treated differently, cancer has a lot of perks. People bring food, will drive you around, you get out of speeding tickets.
9. What would you tell someone who is afraid or ashamed to get checked?
Fear goes away with action. Take the steps to get checked. What is the worst thing that will happen? You will find out you have cancer. What is the worst thing that will happen if you don’t get checked? You can have cancer and it won’t be caught in time.