Jessica's Story

In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month Spinelli Kilcollin is excited to debut the Pink Collection, an exclusive grouping of one of a kind pieces. Unified in their pink hue, ten percent of proceeds from the sale of these pieces will go directly to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

We have been inspired and amazed by the strength of the women in our lives this year. And now more than ever and we would like to take the month of October, and every month, to channel our attention to causes that directly impact the physical, spiritual and financial well being of women everywhere. In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month we would like to take this entry to celebrate Jessica Shantha, a member of our Spinelli family, breast cancer survivor, and physician. We found it important to share her story in order to bring awareness to the risk cancer poses to young women, who are often less likely to perform self exams, and to celebrate her incredible spirit and accomplishments.

As a response to completing breast cancer treatment Jessica worked with our team to create a custom rose gold ring with light pink sapphires. For Jessica the ring symbolizes her experience; it is a constant reminder of where she has been and represents the continuum of life.  It is a way to advocate for breast cancer as people inquire about this unique piece.

There are very few things that can bring your life to a complete halt. I was 34 years old, living an active lifestyle, with an academic career as an ophthalmologist.  Weeks earlier I had found a small lump within my right breast, something I had noticed and immediately went to have it evaluated by my primary care physician.  This led to a mammogram, an ultrasound, and even a biopsy.  I thought it would stop there, but I had no idea what laid ahead.  With just one call from my doctor, my life was forever changed: “You have breast cancer.”

I entered an unfamiliar world immediately confronted with my own mortality.  I did not feel sick nor did I identify with all the images of what cancer looked like in my own mind.  Being a physician myself did not prepare me for the road ahead; nothing could.

After the final biopsy results and multiple scans, I was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer-an aggressive disease, that requires intense chemotherapy for 5 months, followed by surgery.  The first two months of chemotherapy were a blur.  I would receive treatments every two weeks, but for a week following infusions I was struck with fatigue and complete loss of appetite.  It was a struggle, I never felt so alone although constantly surrounded by family and friends.  I slowly watched my body change as my hair started to fall out and I experienced constant hot flashes and insomnia.  I lost myself and my identity as the weeks passed, living a life completely unrecognizable.

It all happened so fast.  Like a tree hit by a tornado, and I had become uprooted.  To make sense of everything I was experiencing I began therapy with a yoga therapist.  This caused a complete paradigm shift in my ability to comprehend my current life.  I remember our first session so clearly, as I walked into her space, it was like being in a vacuum where everything and everyone were not present, I was no longer a person with cancer, just a person.

As months passed, I began to learn so many things about myself and the meaning of our very existence.  I started to truly listen to my body through deep breathing and meditation.  It gave me the ability to let go of the images of my previous life.  I became ok with the uncertainty and loss of control that was taking place as I was living in a liminal space.  The trees became a positive metaphor for human life: deeply rooted and grounded in the earth, strong, and adapting to change as the seasons turned.

Through cancer I was able to find my true self, this internal being that is deep inside of us all like the depths of the blue ocean untouched by the waves rolling over us.  I emerge a more resilient person with new energy and purpose, believing that there is a life force that will send us in the right direction.

Words by Jessica Shantha