I met Dana at a meet up in San Diego for her resort wear collection. Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
I am a thriver…meaning I am currently living with breast cancer. I was originally diagnosed in 2011 with Stage III breast cancer. I had my right breast removed without reconstruction. After six months of intense chemo and radiation to follow, I would find the cancer would return in my clavicle area. The doctors did not want to surgically remove the tumors because they were next to nerves that would make me lose the ability to use my arm. The only option was chemo. I did three months of chemo followed by radiation to my neck. The cancer would disappear. I then got to live close to four years enjoying my life. The cancer would return in my neck yet again and since then I have been on and off from treatments. The cancer goes away then when I stop treatment, it grows back within months. The doctors do not quite understand my breast cancer as it always seems to grow back in my neck. I say it is good to not be normal in this case.
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I love living! I used to be very very very type A and everything had to be planned and done a certain way. I still have the same tendencies but I now relax and know that not everything is going to go the way I plan. That is ok…most of the time. I like to be a mom to my son and in my free time I like to ride horses and sew for my resortwear collection Hulabelle.
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
I was in shock and did not believe it at first. I honestly waited for the doctor to say it was a mistake. I then moved on to grief and feeling like I was going to die. I couldn’t make any plans and I stopped living for a bit.
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
I have grown up with a very deep seeded faith. I keep close to it and know that I don’t have to try to control things and it alleviates the stress. I also love to create and that takes my mind off of the reality of my situation, it is an escape.
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of. Where do you get your support from?
I have experienced both in some ways…there have been some major disappointments but I have always had support from my husband. He works so hard and then he does whatever he can to help me, if that means taking a day off to sit with me at chemo or driving up to LA to get a second opinion. I feel very fortunate.
Many people are unaware that you can do chemotherapy while pregnant. Thoughts and personal experience?
I actually have a a close friend of mine who had to undergo chemo while pregnant with her daughter. She was the only mom in the labor and delivery unit with a bald head. Her daughter is now six and very healthy and active. It is a surprise to many but it can be done at a certain stage in the pregnancy.
What have you learned about yourself since dx?
I am stronger than I thought I was and that I can get through each process.
What do you believe is a common misconception about being diagnosed? Or something that you’d like the general population to know about C.
That life goes back to ‘normal’ when ‘finished’ and there is not going back to things, oh how I wish there was somedays but I have kinda forgotten that person from before. Also there is no pink ribbon finish line for us, we have to keep worrying, keep having our check ups and scans. It is a constant reminder.
Thoughts on the pink…
Please donate to the three following places: METAVIVOR; Living Beyond Breast Cancer; Haus of Volta. These are all very stand up organizations and they won’t drown you in pink.
Where are you at in life now? Mentally, physically, emotionally…
I am all grown up from my original diagnosis I feel…I used to be so scared and depressed. I now realize life keeps moving with or without me so I have decided to keep going. I like to travel and try to do things I normally would set aside before. Also that, yes death is inevitable, it is for all of us so why fear it..enjoy this ride and then when it is time to move on then it is time.
Do you have any lasting side effects- mental, physical, etc.?
Yes, chemo brain is real and I forget things quite easily. It is quite frustrating and sometimes people who don’t understand, think there must be something wrong with me.
Have you noticed any lasting effects on your families and friends?
I think my family and friends all want to see me move forward with life even with the understanding that I am not necessarily cured. They try to encourage me to live. I think my son I am most concerned about. He is 7 and he has had to deal with this since he was only 10 months old. He would like for me to be like the other moms, such as not losing my hair or unable to take him places during treatment. Yet he has also learned some things about life many of his peers may not see or understand until they are adults.
If you could send a message to yourself from 10 years ago… how would that go?
Enjoy this life! Enjoy your energy, don’t take your body for granted!
What are you passionate about? Is this different than what you were passionate about before dx?
I am passionate about living and being with my family. I cherish the outings we do and the funny conversations we may have. I am very passionate about helping others too. I want women in the future generations to not feel as if they are not being heard. I want them to know they have a huge support system. It is a sister hood.
Do you have any short term or long term goals that you are actively working towards?
I am currently in chemo and hope it will shrink my tumor once again in my neck. This time I do get the option of surgery as the tumor is in a different spot. I hope to be able to remove the lymph nodes in my neck. The long term goals are to live my life, enjoy my family, keep creating collections that will be well received everywhere and acknowledged as something to help women.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
Yes, look for the silver lining…it is always there and it shines bright! My favorite curse work is the ‘F’ word which may surprise some…it is very useful in getting negative energy out!
Whenever the day comes to travel to the “great beyond”, what do you hope people remember about you?
I hope my son remembers me. I hope he takes the Daily lessons that I have taught him and uses them to his benefit in the future. I hope he goes on to help others and be compassionate towards all people.
Would you like to share one of your shittiest moments/memories? The raw side of C.
Getting the confirmation it was cancer and in the next room my son was waking up from his nap. I didn’t want to see him, I felt like I had let him down. It was a very dark moment for me.
What’s the latest happenings in your life now?
I love Instagram and so if anyone wants to chat or see what is happening, check it out @hulabelleresortwear and I also have a blog that I just dropped and it is called daycurve.wordpress.com
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
You can face your darkest moments and say I am going to keep going and enjoy my life. I can get through this, moment by moment and it too shall pass.