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After having a double mastectomy in June of 2014 (at the age of 37), I was pretty certain how my story was going to go. I'd have chemo, have reconstructive surgery, get a new perky bosom, and go on with life...but that's not exactly how it went. It could have went that way, it still could, if I choose it. But instead, as I traverse the rocky road of chemo and recovery from all it has done to my body, I came to a startling conclusion...though I struggle with pain, exhaustion, and fatigue, I feel more free than I ever have in my life. What was once important, isn't so important anymore. I have an opportunity to be something that many women can't embrace. A complete love for the body that I have, scars and all. So I have decided NOT to have reconstruction. Breasts do not, and will not, define me as a woman. I have a testimony to share, one that can be inspirational for others who have to travel a similar path. The impact this will have on my 3 little girls, the ability to show them that life isn't about how you look or fitting into society norms. God has given me the amazing grace to walk this out and be ok with being me, the me that I am now, not the me that others think I should be. It is liberating. I feel very blessed to have reached such a pivotal point in my life. I'm not grateful that I had breast cancer. But I am grateful that I can embrace the changes that have occurred and be ok with who I am today, and not something different than I am. I will get a tattoo to cover my scars, but it will be one designed with much thought and insight to commemorate the growth that has occurred because of this tragedy. Life is what you make it. I choose freedom, joy, and the love of my God, who has seen me through so many tribulations. May all who struggle, find it as well.

Shana Carnes

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