On April 17th of this year, Kelle’s boyfriend, Sam, found a lump on her left breast. She knew right away what it was as breast cancer runs strong in her family. But at 31, she was hopeful it wouldn’t happen, or at least not so early on. She was in the final stages of buying a house, had just entered into a new relationship, and life finally seemed to be settling down for her.
Her doctor initially found three tumors, which is rare. After eight biopsies, she received a call on April 26th while at work confirming what she already knew. She had breast cancer.
After that, things progressed quickly. Kelle was assigned a team of medical experts and for the first month had constant appointments. Four to five times a week she visited with the general surgeon, plastic surgeon, oncologists, her general doctor, a fertility specialist, and an OBGYN.
“…It was so hectic and fascinating! I loved learning everything, asking questions, and most importantly coming to terms with the fact that everything medical is an interpretation…I think that was huge for me. In life we spend so much time shopping for a car, picking out a dress, and here I am having major medical procedures done and I’m having to put my trust in someone I just met.”
The doctors collectively agreed that Kelle should have both of her breasts removed.
“And nipples. You don’t think about that part right away, how will I look without nipples?!”
Even though Kelle’s relationship with Sam is in it’s early stages, he has dropped everything to support her. He always answers her phone calls, keeps her spirits high, and makes her laugh when she needs it.
“The worst part was watching my friends and family worry. Hearing my parents cry. But it was easy to support them because I wasn’t scared.”
Her surgery was scheduled for June 3rd, and after realizing she was never going to look the same, she wanted some photos that would cherish her body before the cancer. A mutual friend sent Kelle my way, and we met for the first time on the day of the shoot. I was amazed at how high-spirited she was, and she told me that she just didn’t know any other way to be.
A few days later she underwent a five hour surgery, and woke up to discover that the cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes and she was in remission.
“I wish I was more lucid so I could clearly remember the feeling!”
In total, they found five tumors, but they were found just in time since she was diagnosed as having stage one breast cancer. She able to leave the hospital the next day.
“I celebrated for a day and then remembered that this is far from over.”
She’ll be meeting with her oncologist soon to discuss the possibility of chemotherapy and she’ll be ready for reconstruction in a few months. Then life will hopefully start to normalize.
“One benefit to getting breast cancer when you’re young and healthy is how quickly your body recovers. Not to undermine the healing process. I’m almost two weeks out from surgery and I still can’t get out of bed without a struggle.”
“It’s been difficult to co-identify with cancer. It has been the only thing people talk to me about for almost 2 months. I’m excited to just be myself again.”