My name is Simona (36) and 5 years ago I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, in the 36th week of my pregnancy.
The diagnosis of breast cancer hit me overnight and shook the ground beneath my feet. I was having the time of my life, always paying attention to a healthy diet, being physically active and fit, having no family history of cancer or breast cancer… I had just returned from Rome, Italy, where I had moved right after college (I had studied business and management), I was madly in love with my husband, we were expecting a baby, planning a wedding, buying an apartment, I was planning a career … overnight it was all over .
A week after my diagnosis, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter Isabel, who saved my life, because everything was easier with her. Difficult chemotherapies, treatments, radiation … she made them easier to handle. I was focused only on her and nothing else was more important to me than her. With a newborn in my arms I had no time for negative thoughts, no time for dr. Google researching diagnoses, prognoses, percentages … just love, just her, just us, the invincible trio.
I decided to share with you my story that could encourage, reassure and instill positivity and optimism in young women who just faced the difficult diagnosis I faced 5 years ago. I want to tell them that although a stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis is discouraging, life can be fulfilling and beautiful and worth living and fighting for.
I remember the day when an oncologist handed me the diagnosis with the words ( literally!) – “How do you tell a young mother that there’s a good chance she will not be here when her child will go to kindergarten?”
“The quality of your life will never be the same!”
Who can and who should say such words to a (young) patient? No one! Believe me, the quality of my life is great, in fact I enjoy life much more because I appreciate each day much more then before.
After chemotherapy and radiation, I insisted on a total mastectomy and initially had a mastectomy with breast reconstruction. But a few months later, due to an infection, one of my implants was removed and my breasts remained asymmetrical. In those moments it was hard for me to find comfortable and beautiful clothes, swimsuits, pajamas and underwear to wear during my recovery, but also later. Especially in these sensitive moments, clothes are important for women to cover the removal of their breasts. Dissatisfied with the poor supply of post-operative underwear in Croatia, I decided to start a brand for women after mastectomy and produce underwear, pajamas with pockets for artificial inserts, camisoles with integrated bras and swimsuits that are comfortable, modern and beautiful.
Defying the oncologists I mentioned earlier, I promised myself that in 5 years after being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, I would do something great. Something that will help the community of women who faced breast cancer and mastectomy like I did. Something that will make a difference.
And that’s how Arya Intimates, a Croatian brand of lingerie and swimwear for women who have had a mastectomy, was born.
The mastectomy was very hard for me to cope with, so hard that I could not look in the mirror for probably 6 months. I did not know how to dress, how to hide the asymmetry. My self-confidence was sinking. This was no longer me. My body was no longer mine. None of the old underwear fit me. Neither the trauma of the diagnosis, nor the chemotherapy, nor the hair loss were as hard on me as losing my breasts. The realization that my body had changed forever plunged me into depression.
I struggled for months until I found inner strength and fell in love with my body again. I became proud of it. Grateful for everything it endured during treatment, for the inner strength it gives me, the strength with which fears and challenges became confidence and self-love. Because beauty lies precisely in accepting ourselves as we are – with all our imperfections.