Hannah Earle is living with metastatic breast cancer. In 2016, as a 31-year old mother of 2 young children, Hannah was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Her children were just 4 and 18 months old; she was in the thick of her world as a mom when cancer came roaring into her life and altered it forever. However, Hannah was steadfast that her diagnosis would not gravely affect the childhood of her two kiddos, a son and a daughter. You’ll come to realize this is an ever-present theme woven into the fabric of Hannah’s story.
She worked with the team at Dana Farber and initially underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. After all of that concluded, she was put on tamoxifen, at which point she – and her doctors – thought she was done. “They thought I beat cancer” she says.
During all of her treatment, her community was a driving force of support for Hannah and her family. At the time of her diagnoses, she was “already in the thick of building my mommy community,” so when her world was turned upside down, she turned to them. Hannah says, “I didn’t know what to do. They were so great…random people reached out, a meal train came by…” Hannah also notes that the team at Dana Farber was excellent in offering support to the kids – they gave her advice detailing how to talk to young children about a cancer diagnoses. Hannah ensured she would speak to them honestly and openly – “[I told them] mommy is sick, getting medicine, I’m going to lose my hair.” She also made sure to tell her friends how she was framing it to her kids should one of their own kids ask what is going on.
“[My Kids], they are the driving force in everything I do.”
Two years later, in 2018, Hannah faced a devastating re-diagnosis; this time with metastatic breast cancer. It’s been nearly four years and Hannah remains on a clinical trial. She’s continues to work with the team at Dana Farber on immunotherapy and continues to take daily medication. It’s almost unfathomable to think about how one can shoulder the burden of this type of diagnoses but as you’ve learned by now, Hannah is a mother and puts her kids, and their happy childhood, first.
While there is no “normal” experience, with childhood or a life with cancer, Hannah wanted to make sure her children continued to live their lives largely unaffected by their mother’s cancer diagnosis. She recalls, “I woke up every day with a brave face to be the most normal mom I could possibly be. I compartmentalized cancer to be a different part of me.” While the reality of her disease is always there, it’s not a common topic in their household. In fact, Hannah says it doesn’t come up often anymore, but, of course, always remains an open conversation with her kids should they ask.
Hannah has lost many friends very young due to breast cancer. She wants to ensure their legacies are kept alive. Just because they are physically gone from this world does not mean they can’t continue to live on every day. This is also how she feels about her own mortality. “Regardless of when I pass away, I don’t want [my kids] looking back and thinking ‘my mom was sick, my childhood was colored by cancer.’ I want my memory to live on through my kids, my friends, and my community.”
Lastly, Hannah told us “I want my kids’ memory of me to be ‘she did her best to make our lives as normal as possible.’” We applaud Hannah for taking on an impossible diagnosis with unthinkable amounts of bravery, an unwavering commitment to enriching the lives of her children and her community. We are honored to welcome her to the Runway stage this year and know she’ll inspire you all as she does us.