I still haven’t gone back for my final surgeries; the little ones, cosmetic ones, like getting a nipple and areola back, whether by tattoo, or by surgery. I want so much to be put back together, but at the same time I really don’t want another surgery. And much to my dismay, insurance companies do not pay for such procedures.
One day I was surfing the internet for nipple areola options and I came across TevidoBioDevices. Tevido is a private bio-technology company using 3D bio-printing of a woman’s own living cells to build custom grafts for breast cancer reconstruction.
Immediately, I emailed Laura Bosworth, the CEO of Tevido asking if I could be one of her trials. To my pleasant surprise, she emailed me back expressing her sympathy and admiration to me for having gone through this experience, but that presently, human trials are still several years out.
I have wanted to find a way to use my journey with breast cancer in a way that resonates with me. I got to thinking. One experience led to another and LoveLydia was born.
Once the concrete idea and plan were put into motion, I contacted Laura and told her my idea. She again graciously thanked me for wanting to help fund her research. And now, we are on this journey together. I am so excited and honored to a part of bringing what seems like science fiction to present day.
The time is near when women will not be able to identify with me, when doctors will take out the cancer and have the technology to reconstruct them as they were before the disease. I am so thankful for this opportunity. Thank you Laura for letting me be a part of your great vision.
I took the shuttle from LAX heading toward downtown Los Angeles for the first West Coast Zumba conference. I was sitting by a business woman who was also heading downtown but for a toy conference. She represented Pocket People, a company that specializes in sock dolls. We talked and exchanged stories. She showed me all the dolls of their “love tribe collection” when we arrived at her stop, she graciously handed me the “Echo” doll. Echo is a 4inch sock doll wearing a grey/blue beanie that covers her big pink hair. Together the beanie and the hair form a pink heart.
“Here”, she said. “I think you should have Echo. Her symbol is the heart and she stands for love.”
I thanked her with a smile and she exited the shuttle.
The last day of the Zumba conference I was on my way to attend a flamenco class. As I walked the last corridor before rounding the corner to enter into the class, I struck up a conversation with a woman who seemed in no hurry heading the same direction as I was.It turned out we were both attending the same class. This woman had a presence about her I have rarely encountered. She exudes peace, confidence and a feminine air that intrigued me. She was fiery and energetic and had an intuition that seemed to suggest she could see things or know things that we all have the capacity to do, but an ability she had already seemed to master. I thought to myself, “I want to be like this.”
“I’m Lydia.” I said.
“I’m Echo.” She said,
Whoa! I thought.
I learned that she is a transformational photographer and artist. Everything she does comes from love. She’s a woman that follows her heart to live her life.
I shared my journey and with understanding she told me that I was a butterfly soon to break free of the cocoon. She assured me that everyone that came into her life she knew was for a purpose.I knew then and there that when the time was right, she would capture part of my journey and vision through her art.
She gave me her card and as we would correspond, I would become very familiar with one of her trademark symbols; a pink heart, just like my little Echo doll.
And here we are. The portraits you see on this site were done by this extraordinary woman. Thank you my dear Echo Chanel for sharing your beautiful gift of being able to capture our true unencumbered essence that we all wish we could show but find difficulty revealing. To have a session with Echo is truly a transformational experience.
And, the body art you see in these photos and my make-up was done by Body Art MUA by Margarita Dominguez. Margarita is a wonderful woman. She is sensitive to the needs and wants of her clients and is very kind and easy to work. Thank you Margarita for your gift J
Upon initial diagnosis, my first thought was fear and survival, not researching obscure options. Being the first in my family to go through breast cancer, I knew nothing and followed the most common and accepted next step, a skin-sparing mastectomy. This is where the breast tissue is removed but the outer skin is left intact. Much like an “envelope.”An expander was placed in this “envelope” of skin and under my left chest muscle. Every few weeks or so I’d go in to get it filled, preparing my used-to-be-left-breast area to receive a silicone implant. I didn’t like it. It felt foreign and unnatural. The more I thought about it, I wanted me back; no silicone, no coming back in 20 years to have it replaced, no risk of the silicone leaking throughout my body.
There had to be another option. So my search began and it led me to San Francisco with the beautiful and talented Dr. Horton. Had I found her before my first surgery, maybe she could have spared my nipple and repaired my breast to almost normal. But, everything happens for good J
The day I met Dr. Horton, a tall, legs for days, woman with long blond hair and sincere blue eyes walked in the consultation room. Confident and bold, she radiated like the sun; full of life giving energy and love. It was easy to be in her presence. Bubbly and energetic, she seemed like an old friend from high school that I hadn’t seen for years.
I told her that I wanted me back that I wanted to feel whole, pretty again. She understood immediately and said, “You deserve the very best and to be pampered” I knew I would be served.
So we went right to work. Dr. Horton performed DIEP breast reconstruction on me. In this procedure, belly fat along with the main blood veins that supply life to the tissue is transplanted it to the breast area. This procedure is highly specialized and not all plastic surgeons can perform this operation. A plastic surgeon must be specialized in microsurgery. The amazing part is that this surgery is done wearing microscopic lenses. Dr. Horton had to intricately sew the veins from my transplanted belly fat to the veins in my breast area. She is amazing!
If you or someone you know must go down the path of a mastectomy, see Dr. Horton first.
I submitted an article to Mid-Valley Mama, a then local magazine that featured active mothers and their families in the mid California Valley. Nathan is a photo journalist who was doing freelance work near the Sutter Buttes in Northern California at that time. He was commissioned by the magazine to take head shots of the featured writers for their upcoming edition and that is when I first met Nathan.
He came to my house, took the pictures and we got to talking. I’ve always wanted to have tasteful nude shots taken of me, but always put it off. I was waiting for my hair to be long and flowing, loose the extra baby weight and tone up my body. Well, that time never came. A month earlier I learned that my left breast would soon be sacrificed to the cancer gods. So I asked Nathan if he would do these shots before my first surgery.
He came by later that evening to show me some of his work and we combined our visions for this project. After all was set, he asked me with a kind and gentle heart, if he could do a photo documentary of my journey through breast cancer. He explained that he wanted to bring attention to the fact that one in eight women, maybe it is higher now, will go through breast cancer. This was personal for him as well as his girlfriend had recently lost her mother to breast cancer. He warned that he would follow me for about two years or more attending my doctor’s appointments, surgeries, personal events, treatments and even the mundane everyday occurrences around the house. Without hesitation, I said yes. If it helps brings awareness and eventually an end to the disease, then I would be his subject, open and vulnerable.
It’s been over five years now and Nathan and I have become dear friends. He has seen me through cancer and other difficult life changes and I have seen him get married to his wonderful girlfriend, Colleen.
You can see his photo documentary on his website titled, One in Eight.