Mum-of-two Jen Rozenbaum has revealed how a quickly snapped selfie lead to her breast cancer diagnosis after routine mammograms failed to pick up evidence of the disease
A mum-of-two has revealed how a selfie lead to her breast cancer diagnosis after routine mammograms failed to pick up evidence of the disease.
Professional photographer Jen Rozenbaum was worried after noticing a shadow on her chest whilst taking a quick picture before a night out in April, 2017.
However the busy mum from Long Island in the US was already scheduled for a routine breast check in July so she didn’t get it checked.
By the time the appointment rolled around, Jen, who was 41 at the time, felt like she had ‘pulled a muscle’ in her chest.
Despite high case numbers of breast cancer on Long Island, and the mystery shadow Jen wasn’t too concerned, because she couldn’t feel any hard lumps. But now she knows breast cancer doesn’t always present like that.
The busy mum from Long Island in the US was already scheduled for a routine breast check in July so didn’t get the ‘shadow’ checked out
At first, the medical technicians failed to find anything abnormal during her checkup but when Jen insisted they check her sore muscle a terrifying ‘black hole’ appeared on the screen
The doctor on duty did a biopsy but warned Jen to start organising her affairs immediately.
‘He told me he had seen a lot of things and didn’t have to wait for results to know we were dealing with cancer,’ she said.
Jen has had four major operations since her diagnosis including a double mastectomy, her ovaries being removed and breast reconstruction
Jen said she remembers feeling like she was too busy with her kids to die – so fought the disease with everything she had
It has been four years since the doctor’s fears were confirmed and Jen has battled through a double mastectomy, hysterectomy and breast reconstruction as well as seemingly endless rounds of chemotherapy, and a divorce.
She remembers feeling ‘absolutely levelled’ emotionally, physically and spiritually at some points and could barely get off the couch after chemo sessions.
‘This would terrify my kids who would then become more demanding, they would want a glass of water or for me to pick them up from school,’ she said.
Jen said her children helped out a lot while she was battling cancer, and getting her to stay busy took some fear out of the situation.
‘It was like they thought if I could get up and do these little things then I must not be too sick, must not be dying,’ she said.
Now she wants to normalise post-cancer bodies and help women who have had life-saving surgeries feel good in their own skin
Before going through cancer Jen assumed she would be fine about having her breasts and ovaries removed if she ever was diagnosed.
And despite agreeing to a double mastectomy immediately, she said she wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact that followed.
Her surgeon took a picture for her after the double mastectomy, which happened days before her 42nd birthday.
‘When I saw the picture I thought it was completely bada**,’ she said.
‘And when you are going through it it’s like – yeah, I kicked cancer out I am in control here.’
Jen reveals what you should NEVER say to a woman with breast cancer:
1 – My (mum, cousin, sister) had breast cancer and died/survived
2 – My (insert loved one) is an oncologist and we don’t think you should be doing chemotherapy
3 – You should switch to a vegan diet
4 – If I had cancer I would remove my breasts without a second thought
5 – Don’t worry, you are going to beat this and run a marathon one day. (Jen said this is toxic positivity and she has never had an interest in running)
Jen reveals what you should say and do to help support a woman with cancer:
1 – Instead of asking if you should make dinners just make them and tell them you are dropping them off, don’t give them a choice
2 – Ask if they want to talk about cancer, and if not what do they want to talk about
3 – Say ‘I don’t know what to say but I am here for you’
‘It wasn’t until months later, when I had time to process it all, I thought “did I really just cut off my breasts?”‘
She described the sudden realisation as a ‘what the hell just happened’ moment.
‘I don’t think I was educated enough at the time to make the decisions, everything felt so rushed, I was diagnosed with cancer and days later I was saying yes to major surgery,’ she said.
Jen has shared honest pictures showing her journey and wants to help people diagnosed with cancer
There was no time to process each step as it happened.
‘I remember thinking: “Am I going to die? I don’t have time to die, school starts again in September I need to get the kids ready”.’
She now works to ‘normalise’ bodies after breast cancer surgery, creating photographs which help survivors ‘feel sexy’ and embrace their femininity.
She also uses her Instagram to help people process their own breast cancer journeys and to educate their loved ones on how to act throughout including what to say and what not to say.
Jen, who recently had her ovaries removed, says she has been left emotionally and physically exhausted following the diagnosis and various treatments.
This photo was taken by Jen of a young mum who had opted against a reconstruction following her double mastectomy, and proves women can still be feminine after surgery
She wants to help cancer survivors reconnect with their sensuality after treatment
‘On one side we think we should be happy once we have been treated, that we should dive back into real life but the truth is you never feel the same as you did,’ she said.
‘My divorce is part of the post cancer clean up – and it is proof when you go through something like cancer it changes perspective and look at life a different way.’
Now 46, single and in chemically-assisted menopause, Jen says she is looking forward to getting stronger so she can spend time with her kids.
She also wants to continue photographing women going through the different stages of breast cancer to help remind them they can be beautiful at all times.