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The Power of Intuition and Self-Advocacy in My Breast Cancer Journey

Written by guest writer Gina B. creator of The Fondle Project

ANAONO Community Stories

Photography by Kate Powers @katepowerslovesyou

 

Life has an uncanny way of throwing curveballs at us when we least expect it. At the age of 41, after ten years of seemingly normal screenings, I was hit with a diagnosis that would change my life forever - breast cancer. It's a story of intuition and self-advocacy that I'll never forget.

For a decade, my regular screenings gave me the assurance that I was in the clear. However, something in me just didn't sit right. Call it intuition or a gut feeling, but I couldn't shake the nagging suspicion that something was amiss. After two false-negative screenings and a biopsy misdiagnosis, I knew I had to trust my instincts. It was my own self-advocacy that led me to push for an MRI and seek second and third opinions.

Breast cancer shook my world, and the journey wasn't easy. I underwent five surgeries in 13 months to reconstruct my breasts. Like all women on this journey, I lost my confidence and self-esteem as a woman. But I was determined to regain my sense of self.

In the summer of 2019, I found myself single and back in the dating world. It was a daunting experience, and at first, I shared my story on first dates just to get it over with. However, after a few not-so-great experiences and some much-needed therapy, I decided to share my story when I was ready—on my terms. As I navigated the changes in my body, I focused on the things that brought me happiness and helped me regain my confidence. As a fashion stylist, part of my job was dressing women and making them feel confident. So, I turned the same care and attention to myself.

I discovered that getting dressed each day made me feel normal and like myself again. I would wear soft cashmere that felt good against my skin, layer myself in pretty jewelry, and wear beautiful lingerie. A simple button-down and the perfect tee that shaped my new breasts became my armor. These little things made me feel whole again.

I realized that a cancer diagnosis doesn't define me; it's just a chapter in my life. It's been almost seven years since my diagnosis, and I feel the strongest I've ever felt. This experience has given me a chance to reflect on my life and see what needs to be changed and adjusted.

I take the long view and see someone who has overcome many challenges, emerging stronger and more full of life. If it wasn't for my proactive self-exams and following my intuition, my fate could have been very different. I am incredibly grateful for these experiences and for the opportunity to be more present with my daughters.

Today, I am not only a survivor but also an advocate. I've launched The Fondle Project, an initiative to raise awareness about early detection and the importance of knowing our bodies. A call to action that aims to de-stigmatize self-touch and encourage women to embrace their bodies at any stage of their journey.

By sharing my story and promoting The Fondle Project, I hope to provide hope and inspiration to others facing similar challenges. Life may throw unexpected obstacles our way, but with resilience, self-care, and the support of loved ones, we can overcome and thrive.


Dana Donofree
Dana Donofree
Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.