Young Adult Survivor - Ashley Johnston

Diagnosis

Breast Cancer

Date of Last Treatment

March 21, 2016

Cancer-Fighting Motto

Staying positive breeds more positive.

"But you're so young." These words have resonated loudly in my mind over and over again in the last year.

Yes, statistically, a 28-year-old should be planning other major life events that do not include a double mastectomy, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, endocrine therapy, and several reconstructive surgeries. I can't help but think about how different my mid-twenties have been compared to most, and it's easy to let the anxiety, panic, and fear set in. But I believe that no matter what life throws my way, it is important to handle it with faith, positivity, and a smile. Being 28 and newly diagnosed with breast cancer, I was naturally worried and scared about several things that were about take place. But through the amazing support of family, friends, and a wonderful boyfriend, I realized hair will grow back, one day I will have a female figure again, and most importantly I WILL BE CANCER FREE!!

After having a double mastectomy, my plastic surgeon and his medical team reconstructed a brand new chest for me. They were miracle workers who hepled rebuild my confidence. But before the final result, there were several other cosmetic changes that I had to endure. Physical changes are a very real aspect of cancer. Body image issues are easily created from the aftermath of surgery, chemotherapy treatment, radiation treatment, and other forms of reconstruction

Whether it’s your breasts or some other body part that must be sacrificed to eliminate cancer, it’s never an easy decision. When it came time to choose my surgical approach, I opted for a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. This meant that I would completely lose my breasts and begin the process of placing tissue expanders underneath my chest wall. I was most nervous for the moment when I would wake up from surgery and look down and see nothing. The key to success in this situation is your mentality. Staying positive and finding the good in the situation helps pull you through the bad times. When I was in recovery in the hospital, the nurse asked me if I wanted a moment alone to look at myself in the mirror. I decided to have my mom stay with me for support. So I removed my glamorous hospital gown and took a good long look. No it wasn’t the prettiest sight to see, but then I took a deep breath and said to myself that this is just a stepping stone to the new healthy me. Each day I kept looking in the mirror and would recite some positive affirmation to myself to help me realize that everything would ok because the cancer is gone and I am healthy.

The key thing to remember throughout treatment is to stay positive and remind yourself that this is only temporary. Hair will grow back, your body will be healthy and physically normal soon enough. If you need a confidence builder try writing a daily positive note about yourself and stick it on your mirror. Pretty soon you will have a whole bulletin board of positive affirmations that can help rebuild your self-esteem.