Amy Lysyczyn is a realtor, a mother of 3, and has been a resident of Rutherford County for 21 years. She is also a breast cancer survivor. We got the chance to chat with Amy regarding her experience with breast cancer and how local support from Pretty in Pink Boutique impacted her journey in a positive way.
Can you tell us about your story with breast cancer treatment?
Amy Lysyczyn: Mine’s a little bit unique. I was high risk. My aunt died from complications due to breast cancer about 25 years ago. Then, when I was 30 my best friend Erin died from breast cancer. It made me very hypervigilant and ironically, about five months after she died, I found my first mass and lump. We did a surgical biopsy and then that started regular mammograms.
I’ve been having regular mammograms for a long time, I’m 45 now. About four years ago, they found a mass that they were monitoring and it kept changing and growing so we went in every three months. My doctor, Dr. Carter, who is retired now but was MMC (Murfreesboro Medical Clinic), monitored it very, very closely. On a whim, we said, “how come we’ve never done genetic testing,” so we did it and within two weeks we got a call that I was BRCA1 positive, which is the worst genetic mutation you can have. Immediately I was scheduled for my ovarian surgery removal and then I had a double mastectomy in October of 2019. At that point, it was prophylactic. Ironically, the breast cancer wasn’t in my left side it was in my right side so it saved my life. I was fortunate they were able to get clean margins so I didn’t have to do chemo or radiation. However, they did immediate reconstruction.
My surgeon was Dr. Medling. He’s fantastic, he’s a miracle worker. I had infections three times so I lost my left side three times. Eventually, we had to surrender and I had to wave the white flag because I got too many infections and it just wasn’t working. I had to lose them permanently.
How have you noticed things change from when you were going through treatment versus today?
AL: I went through all of this during the pandemic, the heart of the pandemic. I’m also a severe asthmatic so my family was completely isolated. I have two little girls at home and they didn’t leave the house for a year. In addition, my husband at the time, his employer died from COVID. Right out of the gate, I was in the hospital during COVID, getting surgeries and infections. During that time, there was a real disconnect for me. I think some of that was because of the pandemic and the times that we were in. So, yes, things have changed drastically from my experience just because people are out and about in the world again.
Something that I’ve learned is that I really wanted to advocate for other women. I think there is a disconnect between the surgeons because their passion in their life is to keep you alive and that’s all they’re thinking about. Then you get sent out into the world and you don’t know what your resources are. I have seen a lot more, again it may be because the pandemic has passed, but there are people like this awesome company (Pretty in Pink Boutique) that maybe I wouldn’t have found out about. I know one of the managers here and that’s kind of how I knew about it. In that way, I think there could be some improvement in our area for that but I do see it getting stronger through different organizations and foundations. Ascension St. Thomas Rutherford as well as MMC are providing resources and telling more patients about the local support.
What role did Pretty in Pink Boutique play in your breast cancer journey?
AL: Pretty in Pink Boutique is awesome. Because I went through immediate reconstruction and then had all these complications, I lost my left side three times. Simultaneously while I was going through the infections and the losses on that side, my plastic surgeon was still expanding my right side. I felt extremely deformed and with every surgery, I became more and more deformed. Of course, that hinders your self-esteem tremendously as a woman. I was really fortunate that Holly Sneed, one of the managers at Pretty in Pink, used to go to church with me. A nurse had referred me here so I came and I met with Holly. She’s also a survivor and it was just– it was the first time I felt like a woman again. The kindness she showed made me cry. I have had every size because I was expanding so slowly. One side was getting bigger and we had to kind of shift as that one got bigger and I kept losing the other side. I could just feel normal when I wanted to, so that was great.
Another thing that was amazing that was just a game changer, and I didn’t know about until I came here, is that with the different sizes of breasts, as you’re expanding and if you only have one side that’s not cooperating, like my left side, you’re able to get different sizes. Pretty In Pink Boutique works with insurance so it’s one less pressure that you have on yourself. You have somebody that’s advocating for you to feel whole again. It’s a really wonderful experience and I can’t say enough about the people at Pretty in Pink Boutique.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone going through treatment right now?
AL: I think the greatest advice that I would give to someone that’s getting ready to face losing their breast or going through treatment or any of the things that come with breast cancer is to not compare yourself with other people. I struggled with that a lot in the beginning. I compared myself to other stories and people I met in online support groups and things and thought something was wrong with me. I had complications that a lot of women don’t have but I also didn’t have to have chemo.
I think the biggest thing I would tell people is just to know that your path is your path. It’s all hard. It’s all so, so hard. There are a lot of people like Pretty in Pink Boutique and are other organizations in town whose drive is to help people that are experiencing these hard times.
Definitely don’t compare yourself to other people’s situation because everybody’s got a unique thing. Lean on people that are there to help you. Know that one size doesn’t fit all and I say that jokingly because at a place like Pretty in Pink Boutique where you’re getting prosthetic breasts it’s definitely true. You’re not ever going to be the same again but you can be a new, more awesome version of you. Allow the people to help you and love on you. Pretty in Pink Boutique is a great place for that.
Is there anything else that you want to add?
AL: Here’s the thing with prosthetic breasts: they’re a pain like regular breasts are. Sometimes you want them, sometimes you don’t. I have friends that wear their prosthetics all the time, every single day and people don’t even know that they have experienced breast cancer or a mastectomy or double mastectomy or whatever it may be. I have found that I have days that I am so thankful that I have these perfectly custom prosthetic breasts that I can feel totally normal in my skin and be out there in the community and have nobody look at me and stare at me. Then I have days that I don’t feel like it and I want to be more comfortable in my own skin. It’s ok to not wear them too and it’s ok to do whatever you need to do. That’s the beauty of it.
There are different supplies and all kinds of other different things that Pretty in Pink Boutique can provide you with: bathing suits, bras, camis, you name it. Do what works for you and that’s the greatest advice I can give.
Pretty in Pink Boutique
If you want to see Holly just like Amy did, give the Murfreesboro location a call at (615) 866-4555!
If you or a loved one is battling breast cancer, know that Pretty In Pink Boutique provides support through it all. If you are looking for a compassionate ear that will listen or if you have questions, please reach out. Pretty In Pink Boutique is committed to your well-being the whole way through and may be able to assist or provide resources to help you or a loved one.
Please contact us via phone or email and let us know how we can help. Call (615) 777-PINK.