Testimonial: Heather Allen

Under what circumstances did you detect the disease?
I found a lump while taking a bath. I didn’t have any symptoms that I knew of at the time.

After your diagnosis, please describe your journey in terms of treatment and how it affected you.
I had a very hard time with the diagnosis because I had just buried my mother 6 months earlier who died from ovarian cancer. I didn’t know how to process what I was going through, at the same time I had six children at home to take care. I felt as if someone had given me a death sentence because I had no clue how I was going to be a wife, a mother, a homeschooling mom and battle cancer at the same time. Emotionally I was a mess and didn’t know what to do. I had no one in my inner circle I could talk to besides an aunt that had breast cancer 25 years ago before me. The treatments were hard and they made me sick and I was weak all the time. Even though things started out rocky I thank God every day I made it through and am still here to talk about it.

Can you talk about any of the emotional side-effects of going through a mastectomy?
I felt as if cancer had taken away my ability and right to be a woman. In my eyes women have breasts and when they are gone then what? Will I still be beautiful? Will my husband still love me? Will my children be ashamed? Will people stare at me with disgust? After the surgery emotionally I felt broken, hurt, mad and not beautiful.

How did AiRS help you get your reconstructive surgery and how has this changed your life?
I was at a crossroads. My insurance didn’t offer anyone that specialized  in the field. The only way for me to get the surgery was to pay out of pocket and that was impossible with my family size and only my husband working. I told my doctor if I can’t find help to pay for the surgery then I’m not having the surgery. I found AiRS online and spoke to a woman by the name of Tamara and explained to her my situation and prayed she would be able to help. After a short while I was approved to get help! It’s really hard to explain how getting help from AiRS changed everything without shedding tears.  My cancer made all my choices for me and I didn’t have a say so. This was the one thing I wanted to be in control of and because of the financial help from AiRS I was able to feel that I was in control of my outcome, not cancer.

Looking back, can you give some advice for people going through similarly difficult circumstances?
It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be angry. You didn’t choose cancer nor did you do anything wrong. It’s not your fault! Having cancer does not mean your life is over it just means you have to fight harder to enjoy it. Giving up is not an option! You’re stronger than you think and you can push through it. There will be hard days, weeks or months but if you fight with everything inside you and never give up you can beat it! You are not alone.