Tampa Portrait Photographer
Hey friends. Today on the blog is a big one. It is going to be a blog post that I *Hope* will bring you to your knees. I was lucky enough to have been chosen as the one to really truly capture Aleisha’s story. A story that I will let her tell, in her words. All I can say is that I hope you are ready. Welcome to my tribe Aleisha. You are a part of it now.
For many, tattoos are created after drunken encounters with friends or lovers. After major life
changes, messy, complicated life changes and are marks to remind us that we are stronger,
better after our challenges and triumphs. That we will forever be changed but will never be
My first and only tattoo I had inked after a messy, complicated divorce. After too many years of
empty, hollow years with my ex husband. Sarah McLachlan, a soulful singer who could speak
right into my core. Move me with her words, her music and her dance with life. How did she
know me? Really understand my journey? Sarah was an artist, singer and songwriter. The
hand drawn image of the fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries of a woman, which personified the
very essence of a woman was the perfect ink for my body. The strength and femininity of a
woman who had finally met her soulmate after being reunited after 25 years.
I had found my afterglow in Brian. An afterglow that was cut short after four blissful and
incredible years with a phone call from the breast cancer center. Asking me to come in, that
they needed to discuss my results. Results of a test that I had blown off numerous times. I test
that I had only consented to merely because I had met my deductible. A test that was silly,
A test that would change my life.
BRCA 2…Positive…86% chance of cancer? What kind of cancer again? Fog, confusion, sweat,
was she talking to me? It was raining outside. I had three cancellations that morning and just
happened to be driving by the breast care center when the call came in. “I can come now”, I
remember saying. “I don’t want to wait, if you need to see me then it’s not good”. “I am pulling
I had no idea that the saliva test I sent off as an afterthought would change my life. Doctor’s,
first opinions, second opinions, third opinions. I couldn’t get a single doctor to tell me what I
wanted to hear, that I would be fine. That I would live a long healthy life.
No. I was told time and again that If I didn’t get surgery, I had an 86% chance of getting breast
cancer even with increased surveillance. Increased risk of Ovarian Cancer, Skin Cancer,
Pancreatic Cancer…Healthy today, dead in 6 months if I do nothing is always a possibility. No
guarantees, no crystal ball. BRCA 2. I would require a series of three surgeries, major surgeries just to be on the safe side. Double mastectomy, reconstruction and a full
But…I had just found my afterglow…please not now, not yet, not me.
Don’t ask, I don’t want to talk about it. Don’t share that with me. Opinions, opinions, so many
opinions. No, I don’t want to talk to your friend. I don’t want to hear the negative side effects,
the difficult process, all the possible ways I could die. I only wanted positivity. My children were
young, my life was finally on the right path. I had FOUND MY AFTERGLOW…
Peace. Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key. The Ocean. “Go to the water”. The ONLY place my
mind was at peace.
Six months after my initial diagnosis I decided to brave the double mastectomy first. I found
myself on a rollercoaster, riding up and down, in and out of fear. In and out of being brave. In
and out of faith and mourning the upcoming loss of sensation to my entire chest. The bone
crushing searing incomprehensible pain of the surgery. I woke up and couldn’t breathe, couldn’t
speak. Couldn’t cry…for every movement was more pain than I even knew was humanly
What had I done? Was I crazy to have done this to myself, to have been so stupid?
Then the results…”You have many of the cells that research has shown turns into cancer”. I did
the right thing. I was surrounded by support. Engulfed in love and encouraging words. Food,
lots and lots of food. Cards, gifts…love. So much love. It was almost uncomfortable to accept
the amount of love that poured in my direction. How could I not be grateful? How could I be so
angry at god for my path, for pushing me to do things that seemed so barbaric?
“Having courage does not mean we are unafraid.”- Maya Angelou
I had no choice. I wanted to be here for my children, my parents, my husband. My family. I
chose to boldly walk my path. To face BRCA 2 head on. I would not be defined by my genes or
my incompetent immune system. I was grateful that I had chosen such a healthy path in life.
This was my saving grace, the probable reason that I was already 41 and was still healthy, was
happy. But I was empty. Grieving for my body. My future. The body I shared with my husband.
The reconstruction process was long, challenging. Uncomfortable, sloppy, hard as bricks.
I weathered it all well. Recovered quickly. The physical wounds healed well. I bounced back
and found myself back to work and growing my brand new private practice. The team I had
hired had my back. Covered my caseload, kept the ship afloat. Despite my surgeries, my
business continued to grow.
Reconstruction four months later was a success. My mother, steadfastly at my side for the
second time, nursing me back to health, guarding me with her attention and grit that her
daughter would make it through with minimal side effects, was my saving grace. Strong women
are born from even stronger women and this woman was no joke. This woman had been
through some shit. As any mother, it was later revealed just how scared she was for me. That
she would cry when alone, upset that I had to endure the surgeries, the fear, the drugs, the
removal of all things female. She didn’t want me to it, to see her weak and vulnerable. She
wanted me to be strong, fearless, a warrior and in doing so she projected this to me, when
behind closed doors…she was scared to death.
A year after my mastectomy, and two cancelled surgeries later (I had a serious case of cold feet
and let’s face it, PTSD), I had my third and final surgery. My full hysterectomy. I didn’t share
this one on Facebook. I didn’t post my journey or seek out any level of support. I had
withdrawn into myself. Weary of surgeries. Weary of losing additional pieces of me. Would it
change me? One final elimination of my soul? Of who I was as a woman? Would I still be
Aleisha? A quick question posted to FB, a second of vulnerability then remorse for publicly
exposing my fears. A quick delete and then a complete retreat into myself to stay the course.
Grit. The definition of grit is “courage and resolve; strength of character”. I had found my grit.
“I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another
I am and forever will be a changed woman. Yes, I am still a woman. I was plagued with fear
that by taking so many female parts, I would no longer feel like a woman. I am still a work in
progress. I still have a few things to work out but I am now sitting with the new me. The
Wonder Woman me. A woman that is no longer plagued by anxiety over little things. A woman
who chooses wisely not only how to spend her time, but who to spend it with. To cherish every
single moment no matter how beautiful, joyful, messy, frustrating, ugly, chaotic. The fact that I
get to FEEL IT AT ALL makes me grateful. Grateful that I get to wake up each day and know that
I have walked through so many fears and obstacles to be right where I am. Right in the middle
of my chaotic and incredible life.
I am brave. I am strong. I have grit. I am an amazing mom. I’m not perfect but I’m ok with that.
I am a good wife. I love my family with fierce abandon. I am a loyal friend. I am kind, loving and
accepting and believe love will always conquer hate. I am beautiful in my own skin. I’m
freaking lucky to have two goofy boys. I am a damned good speech therapist. I have reclaimed
“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she
will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and
only herself.”- Maya Angelou
I am a warrior.
I am me…
BRCA 2 Previvor
Member of FORCE (Facing our Risk of Cancer Empowered)
Newest Member of the Kate Boggs Tribe
The amazing hand written calligraphy from the RIDICULOUSLY talented @Allison Bedsole.(click HERE to find more of her talented work.)
Want to check out more from Aleisha’s session? Click HERE.
Want to wear what Aleisha wore? Borrow from my client closet like she did!
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