By Savanah Bandy
Holly Ansley beat breast cancer June 7, 2021, and the way she did it was by listening to her body and adopting an attitude of gratitude.
“My grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979, the year I was born,” she said. “She underwent a mastectomy, chemo and radiation and was always very open about her journey. As the only granddaughter, I was well aware of her diagnosis and what it could potentially mean for me as I got older.”
Armed with this knowledge, Holly was vigilant about her health and had her first mammogram in 2015 while in her 30s.
“That was my first breast cancer scare,” she said. “I was diagnosed with cysts and mastitis and was given the all-clear.”
Five years later, she went in for her first routine mammogram at age 40 and, once again, was given the all-clear. In April 2020, she began having symptoms of mastitis and a third mammogram discovered an area of concern. She underwent two separate biopsies — both benign.
But Holly knew something wasn’t right.
“I began to advocate for myself and requested an MRI to rule out any cancer that couldn’t be detected on a mammogram,” she said. “I was finally approved for the MRI in June 2020. I waited a week and received the MRI results – there was nothing wrong with the side that had been causing issues, but there was a spot on the other side that was very worrisome. After two additional biopsies, and transferring care to KU Medical Center, I received my official cancer diagnosis July 22, 2020.”
There’s never a good time to get cancer, but for Holly, her diagnosis came in the midst of several major life events.
“Our youngest daughter, Maggie, graduated from high school in June. We also found out our middle daughter, Ady, was going to have our first grandbaby. These two things happened just weeks before I was diagnosed,” Holly said.
“In October, after my surgery and before my radiation, my son Bradyn married and we gained another beautiful daughter, Lydiah. I knew from the moment I was diagnosed I had too much to live for to give up without a fight.”
She also leaned on her husband, parents, extended family and friends to get through it.
“I also own a boutique, and the tremendous love and outpouring of support I received from my customers was overwhelming. From encouraging messages, cards, sweet gifts and advice, they raised my spirits daily.”
After a lumpectomy in September 2020, Holly’s next step was radiation.
“I was ecstatic that I didn’t have to do chemo, but radiation is not for the faint of heart either!” she said. “I made it through my 20 treatments and made myself work every day just to prove cancer would not win!”
Holly is currently cancer free but on a five-year regiment of Tamoxifen, a medication that works to prevent growth of any cancer that was left in her body. The medication comes with its own challenges, but she said she is grateful every day to be at this point in her journey.
“One thing I did each day was focus on becoming stronger than I was the day before. I tell myself every day that I am stronger than I was yesterday, and for that, I am thankful.”
Finally, to all women everywhere, Holly says to trust your instincts.
“Advocate for yourself,” she said. “If I wouldn’t have, I would be sitting here with cancer today and wouldn’t know.”