Personal Stories

“I Would Like To Dispel The Myth That If You Have Scars As Nipples, That Means That You Are Not Sexy” – Ericka Hart, Breast Cancer Survivor

   

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For many people, a woman who suffers from breast cancer looks bald, thin, and frail, but Ericka Hart’s mother looked good with her short hair and still worked hard. As a result, people who know Ericka’s mother often doubt her when she tells them that her mother died of breast cancer.

Ericka was just 13 years old when her mother died of breast cancer. She was diagnosed in her early 30s. But before she died, she taught Ericka how to care for herself and her breasts.

Fifteen years after she began self-examinations, Ericka found a lump in her breast.

She made an appointment with a breast specialist and getting mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsies, she was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer in May 2014 at 28 years old. She was HER2-positive Stage 0 in one breast and triple-negative Stage 2 in the other.

When the doctor told her she was going to have a mastectomy, Ericka wanted to know if she was going to go through chemotherapy because of her hair. In 2014, she did a double mastectomy, followed by about a year of chemotherapy.

“Chemo forces you to lay down. And I couldn’t go and hang out with my friends after work because I was so tired and fatigued. I couldn’t have sex with my partner because I was tired or in pain. I gave up yoga-I was just surviving.”

Although, she was sad that she wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, Ericka wasn’t bothered about not having nipples. According to her, her scars are enough to stand in as her nipples.

“And my plastic surgeon, to this day, will ask me if I want nipples. I don’t want them. Not even tattoed, I don’t want any of it. Because my scars run across the breasts, so, I just reclaimed them as my nipples. And I have phantom nipple sensation, so that’s exciting.”

As a young, black survivor, Ericka decided to educate people especially blacks on what breast cancer looks like. She was inspired to do that after it took her surgeon two weeks to find an image of what the scars would like on a black person.

At a 2016 Afropunk Fest, a music festival she had been to many times, Ericka felt moved to take off her top and bare her scars and raise awareness. She also hoped that exposing her scars would help black people know that they can get breast cancer.

Since 2016, Ericka has been on a mission to change perceptions with her unique brand of topless activism.

“My name’s Ericka Hart and I would like to dispel the myth that if you have scars as nipples, that means that you are not sexy”, Ericka says

Watch her speak here

 

 

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