It’s a testament to Amy Westland’s character that when asked about her breast cancer experience she launches into how her journey could serve others. Even before mentioning anything about the life changing breast cancer diagnosis and treatment she went through, Amy discusses how she feels driven to help others through their diagnosis. Her chief purpose has become decreasing fear and increasing knowledge around what questions to ask and tips/tricks of treatment.
It certainly isn’t surprising, given that Amy is an ER nurse and has dedicated her life to helping others, along with her husband, who is a firefighter/paramedic. Amy’s initial diagnosis came six months after a clear mammogram. While showering, she found a lump and her husband, who had seen his mom battle breast cancer, encouraged her to see a doctor right away. At 45 years old, on February 10, 2020, Amy was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. She had a 4 and 5 year old at home.
In an effort to keep her appearance as normal as possible for her children, Amy did cold capping throughout treatment: “I didn’t want to look sick for my girls, but inevitably you lose your eyebrows, so to a degree it’s still noticeable.” Both she and her husband read the girls books, including Nowhere Hair and Cancer Party, which helped frame cancer in a childlike light. The girls remained curious and inquisitive, so Amy notes that with each step of treatment, they openly explained to the children what was going on. It’s why the entire family celebrates her cancerversary each year because together they faced the unimaginable.
Amy is quick to note how helpful people in her life were in getting her to the finish line. Her friends created Amy’s Army and stepped up for anything she needed. They also knew what to say: “I don’t think it’s helpful when people say ‘I’m sorry’ about your diagnosis. My friends said ‘I am sorry for cancer because you are going to kick it’s ass’ which was exactly what motivated me.”
More so, Amy remains blown away at complete strangers who showed her support, including a couple who she met on an online support group who drove to her treatment center to help show her husband how to navigate the cold capping: “it was an hour of their time, but it meant so so much to us.” It’s why she remains steadfast in her goal to be there for anyone, whether she knows them or not, during treatment: “I always say, go ahead and give my number, I will help in anyway I can. So many people- strangers- stepped up for me and I wanted to do the same.”
Ultimately Amy says the experience of breast cancer “changed my outlook on life and death, in a peaceful way.” She has even considered switching from nursing to nurse navigation for cancer patients. It is a reflection of her positive spirit that her journey is serving others and it is this spirit that will, no doubt, light up the runway in January.