The Lake & Stars WOMAN OF THE DAY:
FATIMA AZZAHRA, one of our models for Fall/Winter ‘11
Fatima is a friend who embodies the spirit we talk about here at TLS. Over the past year, at the age of 28, she has endured breast cancer, but has continued to keep a positive attitude and a busy schedule as she prepares to graduate from Architecture school. She was incredibly generous with her personal experience when I asked her to share some of what she went through. We wanted everyone to hear a first-hand account of the before & after, how to help prevent it, and to be inspired to self-educate, as we were… This is a remarkable woman!
How and when did you find out you had a condition that needed attention?
When I found a bump in my breast, my OBGYN said I should have it tested so I went and had a needle biopsy. I was told it was fibroadenoma. Months later I still felt something was wrong, so I went to another cancer center and had another needle biopsy…. same result. I asked the doctor to surgically remove the bump and she agreed, even though it was not “necessary”.
A week after the surgery I got a call from my doctor asking me to come in. Underneath the fibradenoma were two tumors. It was the first week of my last semester of Parsons, where i was studying Architecture. I had to drop everything.
What was your diagnosis, and what sort of care did you need in the short term and then the long term?
The diagnosis: Two tumors right breast. I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. I decided this after a lot of research about different treatments.
After the mastectomy I couldn’t do much. It was insanely painful and devastating. I was in the hospital for a week and my mother was with me the entire time.
I then had to go in weekly to have inflators adjusted (that were put under my pectoral muscles), to stretch my muscle. After each inflation I was unable to do much at all. This lasted for a long time, and finally when that was over I had to go back into surgery and have the inflators taken out and the implants put in. I had to recover from that surgery which I am still doing. Hopefully my scars will heal and I will be able to have my nipples reconstructed.
Did friends your age play a large role in your healing process?
My mother, sisters, and friends kept me alive. They had a calendar and took shifts taking care of me. They were so positive and kind and caring. My sister, who was pregnant at the time, organized everyone and was with me at the appointments or made sure someone was with me. I could never imagine going through this without the women around me…. they literally kept me going, kept me hydrated, kept me moving, helped me with the pain both physically and deep in my soul. We were all shocked and they made absolute sure that I would not have to go through this alone.
We all know how busy everyone is and somehow they all made time and didn’t let me worry. I cannot come close to figuring out a way to say how important the women around me were, and how beyond grateful I am to them.
Did you ever think you’d wear lingerie in a fashion show?
What made you decide to be part of The Lake & Stars’ show?
My dear friend Michelle called me up and suggested it. I had met Maayan through friends and liked her and The Lake & Stars approach. I had also worn some of their designs and loved them.
I thought it would be fun and would aid in healing the wounds and moving into the future.
How did it feel to be up there in your lingerie? Do you think its different now post-cancer vs. before?
It felt good. I did feel conscious of my breasts. Post mastectomy I am much more aware of them, especially the scars and the roundness and mostly the absence of the nipples. The sensation is coming back but not completely. They are still getting soft… at first, after the implants were put in, they were really tight and looked strange in bras, but now they are getting more malleable and bras look better.
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