Mindie Beats Breast Cancer
MINDIE BEATS BREAST CANCER
When I found out my friend Mindie was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew i wanted to use photography to help her heal. I had no idea what that meant at the time, and I knew that this wasn't a moment for me to brainstorm and pitch an idea. It was a time to listen.
So we had a conversation around what type of shoot she'd like to have and what she would be comfortable sharing and we got in the studio and spent an evening going to the emotional depths, and revealing for the first time Mindie's chest after her double mastectomy and before her final implants were put in.
There were so many touching images from the shoot that indeed helped Mindie heal, but only a couple of them she felt comfortable sharing.
I'm so glad she did because I know these will be an inspiration to anyone who's struggling with this disease.
If you want to read Mindie's story from her perspective, here's her Medium post about the importance of getting screened:
"My Breast Cancer Awareness
As I share my story about beating breast cancer just 6 months ago, my hope is to inspire you to take action in being the boss of your own body! One of the most meaningful parts about spreading the word has been the many women that have told me that my story motivated them to schedule their first or overdue mammogram.
My name is Mindie Kaplan and these are my new (silicone) girls, Thelma & Louise (at the halfway point)! How did I get here? My story is unique. No family history. No lumps. No initial signs. I passed the breast exam by my doctorand was told that I could get a proactive mammogram, and one month later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It turns out that there are many different types of breast cancer and the one that I had could only be detected through a mammogram.
I felt everything from fear, to doubt and uncertainty in how this might change me and wondered when I would I feel like myself again. It would prove to be the ultimate test in the strength of my mindset, positivity and approach to taking this on in my own way.
The hardest part was the unknown and the raw anticipation for the results while I fought the constant urge to google it all. So how did I distract myself? I went into planning mode and created my own “Breast-Visory” Board of people who I knew were connected in healthcare and could help me get to the top doctors in the city. From there, I scheduled my double mastectomy on Valentine’s Day (of all days which we quickly rebranded as my day of self love)! I’m so incredibly grateful to have caught it early especially when I was told that I was just weeks away from needing radiation since the cancer started to spread to my skin. I’m now in the homestretch with 3 more minor procedures to go.
On most days, I was positive and felt like I got some new perspective and an unplanned upgrade! On other days, I cried uncontrollably in the shower or while randomly just walking down the streets of NY in trying to make sense of it all. Although I don’t want to discount what I’ve been through, I know so many women who have had it much worse in needing chemo or radiation which also kept things in perspective and fueled my desire spread the word about early detection.
Sharing the news in the beginning was beyond therapeutic and it was really amazing to see what happens when people have the opportunity to show you how much they care. Even though it was under these circumstances, I’ve never felt more connected, loved & supported. Many cried with me, shared their personal stories, & even provided extensive feedback on my new upgrade 🙂. My family was my rock and my friends showed their support by coming to appointments, confessing that they’ve actually googled “what to say & not to say” and even planning parties in THEIR honor!
On the day of my mastectomy, I was feeling strong, my family was by my side and looked me in the eyes and said, “we got this”, I shed a tear (or likely 20 or so) and was wheeled away. When I looked back at them, I had a sense of calm in knowing that I just needed to surrender to it and would come out even stronger on other side. Upon coming out of sedation, I was reminded that my first question was, “When will I be able to hug again?”, which I find to be a very valid one actually! And… not to worry, I supposedly asked if there were any “Hot docs” around as another follow up, so we knew things were going to be just fine!
I also woke up with what’s called “expanders” that are basically hollow implants that are used to stretch the skin over time to make room for the implant, pretty sci fi, huh? Think a Reebok pump shoe — similar technique (sort of), I would go to the doctor every 2 weeks to get “pumped” to my new & improved size.
Before leaving the hospital after my surgery, I met a security guard and when I told him why I was there he looked me right in the eye and said, “You know this was always written in your story, right?. I replied back, “I believe that actually”, and then he asked, “Well, why do you think?” I told him how I always felt the pressure of being on this quest for the right career, the right person and the right experiences” and that I had fear of missing out in all those areas if I wasn’t seeking them out. He said, “What about fear of missing out on yourself?” (insert chills). Granted I was on numerous drugs at the time…yet, this really stuck with me.
He was so right, because there were occasional moments when I made time for self love and when I didn’t I told myself I would make more of it once I “achieved” those things. All of this has shown me otherwise, along with his advice. And…btw, I went back to thank him 10 mins later & his shift had actually changed, just like the messenger in a movie (insert chills here).
Upon returning home from the procedure, I definitely reverted back to my 6-year-old ways with family & friends tying my shoes, feeding me (airplane style) & even tucking me in. I didn’t fight it, I embraced it. Friends sent inappropriately great singing telegrams, created a plaster cast for visitors to sign, made cooking visits & even music videos which meant everything in my recovery.
At the halfway point, I received a compelling offer from a friend and photographer, Tom Kubik, to do a photoshoot to commemorate the progress. This was one of the scariest and most liberating parts of the process where he actually experienced the roller coaster of emotions that I’ve felt for 9 months in a mere 2 hours. Some of this work actually received an award from the American Photographic Awards which definitely meant a lot to both of us on a deeper level.
Three months later, the countdown swap in the implants was finally over! We decided to name the new additions Thelma & Louise and I sent out an announcement, which luckily only confused 2 people who wrote back to congratulate me on my new family!…
On Thursday, May 23rd at approximately 7:45am, we welcomed Thelma & Louise into the world! With this announcement, I’m officially cancer free and the new girls (i.e. implants) are settling in nicely on the road to recovery.
Feeling grateful for ongoing lessons in self love, trading nights out for days in filled with meaningful quality time & building bonds that I didn’t think could be any stronger. In contrast, looking in the mirror and not quite recognizing parts of myself temporarily was one of the more challenging times, but…the worst is now over and will actually turn out to be an unplanned upgrade!
As I start to reintegrate, I’ve realized that I haven’t stopped in years (especially since moving to NY) and nothing besides this would have slowed me down. So, I’m thankful for the perspective and coming out even stronger and more deliberate on the other side.
As I begin to move on, I’m confident that this happened for a reason and want to turn my story into a positive one by sharing a few lessons with my fellow ladies. Here is a quick one… please promise to make your health your first (if not your second) job! Doing this was the entire plot of my story.
So many of you run companies, teams & families and have confessed that you’re afraid to actually get tested, so, you’ve avoided it all together. I’m 1 of 2 things, lucky or smart (or maybe both :)…thanks). I’m also proof that timing is everything, so, please continue to post the dates of your appointments when you make them! Lastly, for all you bosses of every kind, you’ll need to be your own advocate, push/negotiate for the earliest appointments, network for the top doctors and be just as relentless as you are in other areas of your life. Thanks again for your nonstop support, this journey has also created a sense of urgency in following my dreams too, more to come there! Love to all, can’t wait to see you soon! xoxo
In honor of breast cancer awareness month and in an effort to make the conversation more approachable, I’m launching an initiative… mammosas.com where women can “invite a friend” to grab a mimosa and a mammogram together! Please watch over your sisters, daughters, wives, friends, cousins & encourage them to get tested!
This article originally appeared on Mindie Kaplan's Medium page for Breast Cancer Awareness Month here: https://firstname.lastname@example.org/my-breast-cancer-awareness-54de77220995