I saw what I thought was a bruise, but it didn’t go away, and didn’t go away. I was scared, tried to ignore it but eventually I couldn’t anymore. It took months to finally admit to myself that this wasn’t right and then it took me a bit longer to tell my husband. I just didn’t want to scare him. So, off to the doctors we went and they got me in for an immediate mammogram and ultra sound. So on our 5th wedding anniversary we found out I had a tumor. Days later a biopsy and then the worst, breast cancer. Ugh, now what? My uncle who had been going through his own cancer battle said to me, “Suck it up!” So that is what I did.

The day I found out I announced on Facebook to all my friends that I had breast cancer. I don’t usually get so personal with my posts, but I felt that people needed to know. A lot of my friends are my age and if it could happen to me, why not someone else? I heard from several people who, because of what I had written or said, went to the doctor or got an early mammogram. Some ended up being fine and some ended up with something. Any time any of them asked me I was ready to answer any question, I said I’m open book, ask me anything. If you can help just one person, getting personal is worth it. I’m not a hero, but maybe I can offer some help or inspiration to someone so they don’t just give up.

No history, no gene and not expected at the age of 38 I was beside myself. Of course, I had my family and everything but I didn’t know anyone who had gone through this. So my plan was to fight like a girl and that is what I did. 7 surgeries later, two rounds of cancer, chemo and radiation I’m still here and still fighting like a girl. In fact, I started a company in the middle of all this craziness! That’s right a company. I had been using my sewing machine as my therapist all through my first bout of cancer and after 4 surgeries my husband and I started HKelly designs, a fun and funky handbag company.

Any day that I felt good enough to do something, I went up to my sewing room. After I learned how other people made handbags I started designing my own. Designing the bags helped me to get away from the stupid thoughts. I had to concentrate on sewing, measuring, cutting. While in the background the Twilight Saga played. Yes, I know every movie by heart, but again, it stopped me from thinking.

After 4 surgeries I was starting to get back to a semi normal life, of course nothing feels quite right, but I thought it could only get better. Just a little over 2 years after my first surgery the unthinkable happened, a tiny little bump on my scar. Yeah, not what I wanted to hear, but doctors gave me hope; it’s probably just a suture with scar tissue. Another surgery and then the call… “You have a recurrence.” Another surgery to clear the margins and then 4 rounds of chemo and 35 days of radiation.

Throughout the chemo and radiation I continued to work on my handbags. I had found a local manufacturer who was going to produce a small run of my first official line. The line came out just after I started chemo and I continued to do some custom work when I could. Chemo and radiation really took a lot out of me, but it didn’t stop me. I am determined to never give up and I think I have been dramatically changed by cancer, but in more good ways than bad. If it weren’t for cancer I probably wouldn’t have this company and I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be so open. I hope to continue to help anyone who needs it with encouraging words, hugs and kisses! To all of you out there fighting, keep it up, don’t stop, something great can and will happen if you just go for it!

As a way of giving back, HKelly designs donates a percentage of the sale of every Gemma clutch to the Young Survival Coalition. We also started designing a Limited Edition T-shirt last year that we donated all the proceeds to the YSC. I plan on doing a new t-shirt every year around October.