When Stephanie Kelly tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, which signifies a high likelihood of developing cancer, she decided to get a preventive double mastectomy. Having seen her own mother battle breast cancer twice, she was confident it was the right move and completely unfazed by the test results.
“With the family history and just my general luck about things, I’d always expected breast cancer to play some role in my life,” she told People. “It would have been a great surprise if it had been negative, but I completely expected to hear it was positive. The genetic counselor joked that she’d never had someone be so calm and matter-of-fact about positive results before.”
But while her mother served as inspiration, 42-year-old Kelly had another role model to help her get through the operation and its aftermath– Wonder Woman.
“I have always loved Wonder Woman, and during this time I began to joke that I was going to be like Wonder Woman and be strong and unfazed by the things I needed to do that scared me,” she said. “Friends and family sent me little gifts of Wonder Woman figurines, cards, clothes, even a full robe. It all helped me feel stronger and it was a way to feel all the love and support I had and bring that along with me.”
Kelly identified with Wonder Woman so strongly, she decided to get the superhero’s iconic phoenix imagery on her chest, much like a protective breastplate. She worked with tattoo artist Jamie Epsy at Lovely Monkey in Michigan to come up with the design.
“Along with Wonder Woman, I was also drawn to images of the phoenix and how the bird reconstructs itself from the ashes of it’s former body.”
Kelly says the tattoo has changed the way she thinks about her body, giving her a necessary boost of confidence and self-love.
“With my other health issues, I’d never really been very confident of my body,” she says. “But now, I already don’t fit the mold of what the world expects, so there is a sense of freedom that comes with that. But then on top of this, I have this image of strength, power and fearlessness across my chest and that continues to build me up. I see my scars now as entirely positive.”
Although, if we’re being honest, it seems as though Kelly is a Wonder Woman herself. Not only did the mother of four make the swift and brave decision to go through with the preventative double mastectomy as soon as possible, she did so while suffering from fibromyalgia (constant chronic pain everywhere), gastroparesis (a digestive tract illness) and lingering injuries from a car accident. In other words…Stephanie Kelly is a superhero.
For every selfie posted publicly on a social network using the tag #kissthis4mbc @novartis will donate $10 to @mbcnbuzz and @metavivor – two patient driven advocacy organizations dedicated to supporting research for people living with the only breast cancer that kills: Metastatic Breast Cancer. Will you raise $$$ for MBC today? #metastaticbreastcancer #previvor #propholacticbilateralmastectomy