Vanesa Hansen - Young Breast Cancer Survivor

Last month I teamed up with Vanesa Hansen in Manhattan Beach, CA to shoot some fitness samples and share her story. At 26 years old she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wanted to take some time to for her to share part of her story and some images we created.

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I was a free spirit. Absolutely invincible. At age 26, I lived each day carelessly. Days passed, time passed, and I spent my time behind a desk and in the gym.

 

Unhappy with myself and not knowing how to appreciate true beauty I set out to get a consult  for breast augmentation.  The prior 2 1/2 years, I spent countless hours in the gym strength training. The gym was my sanctuary. I loved how it made me feel  and look but had a different view of my chest once it started to dissipate.

I scheduled a plastic surgery breast consult to discuss the topic in detail.  We reviewed and discussed everything you would want to know about breast augmentation. I was very intrigued by the idea and decided to go forth with the next step. Now to get a mammogram at age 26.

I decided to contact my obgyn who was kind enough to listen to my request and we submitted the request for a mammogram. Denial after denial, we submitted the same request for a mammogram about 4 times until finally we received an approval.

An abnormal mammogram (March 2016) turned into a biopsy (April 2016) which unveiled abnormal calcifications.

Then the diagnosis, Stage 0 Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) of the left breast. (May 14 2015)

I had the option of a bilateral or unilateral mascetomy. Now chances of the cancer spreading to the right side were strong. August 27 2015 I had a full bilateral mastectomy w/ sentinel node biopsy and breast reconstruction with expanders.

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Next, was the expansion process.  My expansion process was roughly 2 months long, and 4 total visits with my plastic surgeon. where they used a big needle to inject the expanders (basically like a bag)which were placed immediately after the bilateral masectomy. 

This is an outpatient appointment. Simply have a seat, change into a open lace smock, and they inject the huge saline-filled needle into the magnetized insertion point. Depending on the desired size more expansions may be necessary. You feel a sudden rush almost as if you'll faint. The expander fills from the saline injection and stretches the skin abruptly. Each expansion took roughly a week to recover from. 

The skin felt like it would just burst. During this time, I usually only wore sport bras and baggy shirts/vests for comfort. 

 In the car coming from expansion appointment/September 2015

In the car coming from expansion appointment/September 2015

December 3 2015 was my last surgery where implants were finally placed. Weeks upon weeks passed and I could not lift my arms. Could not care for myself at all. No more washing my hair, driving my car, or reaching in the cabinet. Everything felt lost. Taken away.

I started lifting weights again and going outdoors. Enjoy yoga, hiking, and bike rides with my son. I have a different view on life now. Slowly regaining feeling and nerve sensations. These obstacles opened my eyes. I finally started to gain self love and respect. Now I am 29 years old and cancer free! Hooorayyyyyy!!!!! Cheers to a healthy, happy, and balanced life!

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I would encourage all young women to do routine checks. If you feel something or sense something is not right go to the doctor. I didn't feel a thing.  No lumps or bumps. I had the desire for proportion. 

My family and friends opposed the augmentation consultation but I still went forth! Looking back now, it saved my life. Follow your intuition. You know what is right for you!

 

 

Great resources:

UCLA Medical

Cancercare.org

Koman.org

You will be challenged mentally, physically, and emotionally.

  • Remember who you are
  •  Dont lose yourself in the process
  • Take photos and document your journey. 
  •  Don't be ashamed or hide. 
  • Reach out and seek support and assistance when needed.
  • Find a network of strong women to empower you through your journey. We are all here for you.