Macee’s Story

“I am confident. I am beautiful. I am powerful. Anyone is lucky to have me. Look at my body and what it went through to be what it is today.”

© Bianca Muñiz

Macee was twenty-six years old when she discovered her first breast tumor. It was a Friday night, and she was about to be intimate, which added to an already unnerving situation. She described her deep discomfort in that moment.

“I felt the lump myself, and it was eerie. I definitely immediately got upset. It was an ‘I know this wasn’t there before’ kind of thing,” she said.

She underwent an ultrasound, which initially appeared benign. Unfortunately, the radiologist’s impression was wrong. A biopsy showed estrogen receptor positive, HER2 negative breast cancer.

Macee was living in a very small town in Idaho, where she worked as a special education teacher. Her diagnosis came not in a clinical office but in a classroom.

“I finished the day, and I walked inside, and the doctor was inside of my classroom. He was there to tell me that it was cancer.”

Macee lost her grandmother to a breast cancer recurrence. Between that loss and a past experience watching a different health issue in her teens only to have it worsen, Macee knew one thing: she didn’t want to wait and see. She wanted to act. Loved ones rushed to Idaho to support her as she worked on a treatment plan and tried to continue with life as usual.

Macee planned to undergo a lumpectomy and chemotherapy in Idaho. However, pre-surgical imaging threw her an additional curveball. She had another tumor in the same breast. A biopsy added yet another layer of complication. Not only was the new tumor malignant, it contained a different type of cancer from the first. This new cancer was triple negative.

picture of patient
© Bianca Muñiz

“Now I had two different tumors in the one breast, so there was no question that I was losing the left breast. I was only going to do one, but since it was triple negative, I was having chemo first. I had time to think about what I really wanted to do.”

Macee started chemotherapy and fertility treatments in Idaho. After a great deal of independent research, she ultimately decided to finish her treatment in New York where she felt she would have access to better care and more familial support.

She chose to have bilateral mastectomies with expander-implant breast reconstruction. Between mastectomies, reconstruction, chemotherapy, and the changes to her hair, weight, and energy level breast cancer caused, Macee had a hard time with her overall appearance. Simply put, she did not feel or look like herself.

“It was just hard to have confidence at all. I still struggle with that. Not every day is up. I have to dig deep to say that I am confident. I am beautiful. I am powerful. Anyone is lucky to have me. Look at my body and what it went through to be what it is today.”

She turned to boudoir photography and self portraiture to heal. Photoshoots before and after she lost her hair showed her a version of herself that she could not see without that distance. They illuminated her.

“Photographs helped me immensely in regaining that confidence. The more I took them, the more I believed I looked good. In the photos, I was just confident.”

Macee continues to grapple with some implant animation and loss of chest sensation. While she is happy with the aesthetic outcome of her reconstruction, she is still adjusting to the physical and emotional shifts that come with breast cancer treatment.

“My hair hasn’t grown back as thick as it was. I’m still on hormone medication. It’s not over once chemo is over: I think about it daily. It’s still hard, because of all that my body went through and the changes and seeing it. I just am so grateful for all of it at the same time.”