“Cancer doesn’t define you:” Young mom, cancer survivor offers hope, inspiration to others

Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 5:05 PM CDT
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ALLOUEZ, Wis. (WBAY) - As part of breast cancer awareness month, we hear all kinds of statistics, including how the cancer often targets older women.

But one Allouez woman is living proof cancer doesn’t discriminate by age.

And it definitely doesn’t define you.

At 34, mom of two, Brittney Maher, is energetic and always on the go.

Never did she imagine a weekend getaway would lead to the discovery of breast cancer.

“In all honesty, not on my radar at all. I was actually on a girls weekend, and I was wearing a swimsuit and this lump was actually big enough to see through my suit,” explains Maher.

She had noticed the lump before that, but being 31 at the time, didn’t think much of it.

“I I thought nothing is ever going to happen to me. I don’t need to see a doctor. This is fine. I’m fine. It’s probably nothing. And kids happen, and life happens, and work happens. And there are so many excuses,” says Maher.

It turned out to be stage one breast cancer.

Though she was shocked at the news, Maher decided then and there, she wouldn’t let it define her.

She opted for reconstructive surgery after a double mastectomy.

“I wanted it to feel as normal as possible. I wanted to look down and not be reminded of this journey I had been through,” she says.

She’s focused on wiping away any stigma of having that surgery, advocating it’s not about vanity.

“My breasts may not define me as as Brittney Maher, but that was part of what I lost. And it was important that I had that and regained that to take control of my body,” she says.

Thursday evening, the annual BRAS of the Bay event by the plastic surgeons at BayCare Clinic will advocate and raise awareness that federal law mandates coverage of reconstructive surgery after cancer.

“At the end of the day, the dust settles and and the scars fade and your hair grows back and things become a memory, and you start to measure your life before cancer and after cancer. And I really wanted to blur that line. I didn’t want there to be this defining moment in my life,” says Maher. “I always said that when I would go through this, I was going to come out on the other side a better version of myself walking through this, being more positive, appreciating the little things in life.”

Every three months, she goes to the doctor for re-checks.

In August, she hit a milestone -- two years cancer free -- surpassing her biggest chance of reoccurrence.

“I felt like I wanted to skip to my car, do a heel click like I did it! I did it! And as I walked out to my car, I realized where I parked. I was walking past Oncology where people are getting their infusions and chemo, and I wanted to just knock on the window and say, you will get there. You will get there. I got there. You’ll get there, because I remember sitting there looking at those people walking out from their appointments past the windows and thinking, why not me? But you do get there. It’s a journey, but you get there.”

Click here for more details on the BRAS of the Bay event and to attend a special Facebook Live event at 6:30 p.m.

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