Pregnancy After Breast Cancer

An Interview with Bobbie Breastie, Jessica DiLorenzo

Paige Herman-Axel has more than two decades of experience writing about beauty, skincare and wellness. A former editor for a variety of publications, Paige is now a freelance writer and consultant for skincare companies big and small, dermatologists and plastic surgeons, as well as a regular contributor to various websites. In the rare time spent away from her computer, Paige can be found on a tennis court, shuttling her 13-year-old son to and from basketball practice, or playing fetch with her Havanese, Nugget.

At Stage, we love sharing inspiring and uplifting stories of cancer thrivers. We sat down with Jessica DiLorenzo to learn more about her journey, and what being a Bobbie Breastie means to her. The organic formula brand Bobbie created this initiative to provide equitable feeding support for new moms who are unable to breastfeed due to breast cancer treatment and Jessica was among one of the first honorees.

Can you share a brief overview of your cancer journey and where you are today?

In February 2016, I found a lump in my left breast close to my armpit. I was positive it was nothing because I was super healthy, I was a Yogi, I ate well and was health conscious overall. I went for an ultrasound to check it out, and was told it should be biopsied immediately. However, when I went to see the surgeon, he said that a biopsy wasn’t the best option and we should “just take it out” with a lumpectomy. The procedure was performed on February 29, so things escalated pretty quickly.

Then I got the dreaded call from the doctor that it was indeed cancer — and he had a feeling it was a genetic cancer since I was so young and in such great health. My mom had breast cancer and did genetic testing that showed it did not run in her family, so we looked at my father’s side. My grandmother is 95 and healthy as can be, but it turns out that she carries the gene (and all of her sisters passed away either from breast or ovarian cancer). 

My genetic testing showed I carry the BRCA1 gene, so I decided to move forward with a double mastectomy. After surgery, my doctor told me we had clear margins around the tumor, so I most likely wouldn’t need further treatment. Then I met with the oncologist who said we would have to do chemotherapy after all. My family and friends were very supportive, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through and such a humbling experience. Looking at myself in the mirror with no eyebrows, no eyelashes and patchy hair, I had no choice other than to see that beauty is so much deeper than what’s on the outside.

What were your next steps to becoming a mom?

From a very young age, I always knew I wanted to have kids. I'm an educator and I've worked with kids from preschool through fifth grade. I feel like my life's purpose is to unveil the gifts and the beauty within children, so when I was diagnosed I thought, How am I not going to get the opportunity to do that with my own child? 

I went through my cancer journey, split from my then-partner while I was still healing and started to put my life back together. All along, I had an amazing friend who I met before I was diagnosed with cancer. He was consistently checking on me — but he was always just a friend. Honestly, I thought he was too good to be true! We started making porch dates during COVID lockdown, and we kept getting closer and closer. He shared with me that we were on the same timeline, that he wanted a baby and he thought I would be the best mom. Our beautiful friendship blossomed, and I soon realized this was the love of my life. We knew that we eventually wanted to get married, but agreed not to wait until we were married to try to have a baby. 

Many doctors told me that I would probably have trouble getting pregnant, and that I’d likely need to go through fertility treatment. I lost my period during my cancer treatment and it took about a year for it to come back. I just didn't know what was going to happen. My now-husband kept saying, “No, you’re going to be a mom, we’re going to do this. Let’s just try.” I scheduled an appointment with my OB-GYN who said that since my period was regular again and everything looks great, there was no reason to talk about fertility treatment at that point. Six months later I was pregnant! 

Can you tell us about your Bobbie journey?

My sister tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation as well and decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy. She had breast-fed her first baby, so she did a lot of research to find the best formula for her second (post-mastectomy) child and found the organic formula brand Bobbie. Knowing that I eat “clean” and try to avoid potentially harmful chemicals in my beauty and household products, she said, “You’re going to love this company!” I felt an immediate connection when I found out they give post-mastectomy breast cancer survivors a discount considering my teacher’s salary at the time, and it didn’t hurt when I saw that Tan France from Queer Eye was a fan of Bobbie as well. 

Then I found out about the Bobbie Breastie sponsorship opportunity for 25 survivors. I told my family about it and they were all willing to help with my application. My friend went through breast cancer around the same time as me and then became pregnant a few months after I did, so I nominated her. There was one final Zoom interview for all of the 50 finalists, so I was definitely nervous. Once we were all together, Bobbie’s CEO told us they were sponsoring all of us (including about 50 other survivors who weren’t on the Zoom, as well as my friend!). We are all crying happy tears and it was such a beautiful, emotional moment. As survivors at such a relatively young age dealing with the additional struggle of making babies, there was an instant connection. 

What does Bobbie’s formula and service mean to you?

My son Leo is 11 months old, and he's obsessed. I can see how comforted he is at every feeding, and he never stops until he gets the very last drop. Like most parents, we spoke to our pediatrician about adjusting his formula intake once he started solid foods, but he still drinks it all! I love that we’ve never had trouble with pooping — I can’t believe how “regular” this kid is! 

As a mom, I love Bobbie because the subscription means we never have to worry about forgetting to place an order, and it gives us the flexibility to adjust how much formula we need as Leo grows. Now that his first birthday is approaching, we’re getting gentle prompts about giving up our “spot,” which I completely understand especially because of the formula shortage (and his natural growth as a child). I want every family to enjoy the peace of mind that comes along with knowing their baby is being fed an organic formula that provides all of the nutrients they need, without corn syrup, fillers and other processed or hidden ingredients. 

Any tips or advice for women newly diagnosed or finishing cancer treatment? 

It’s so important to take care of ourselves by exercising and being aware of what we put in and on our bodies, but I truly believe in the power of a sound mind. It doesn't have to be yoga, it doesn't need to be meditation, but we all need to find something that fills our cup, lights us up, gives us a release from stress and brings us peace. And then don't stop doing it — especially through motherhood. Find those pockets of time to just be with yourself and nurture yourself. I filled this space for so long with really wanting a baby and working way too much. I was the rescuer always trying to help others. This is probably because I didn’t want to deal with myself or the fear of not being a mother, but it really took nurturing myself and mothering myself first to get to the right place in my mind and my life. That's when the possibility of motherhood opened up and I really started to see it and believe that it could happen for me. 

What are your favorite items from Stage, and why?

When I first checked out Stage, I was so impressed with how sexy, cute and sporty their bra options were. I’m not just a breast-cancer survivor… I’m an active mama who needs something that’s up for practicing yoga, but I want a bra that I can wear for lounging and still feel sexy in. I love a seamless sports bra, which is why I wear the Uwila Warrior Braless Cami constantly. If I’m not wearing that, I’m in Anaono’s Niya Pullover Lounge Bra. The criss-cross straps are super comfortable while supporting and accentuating my beautiful, natural-looking reconstruction.

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It’s so important to take care of ourselves by exercising and being aware of what we put in and on our bodies, but I truly believe in the power of a sound mind. It doesn't have to be yoga, it doesn't need to be meditation, but we all need to find something that fills our cup, lights us up, gives us a release from stress and brings us peace.

- Jessica DiLorenzo

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