We are committed to sharing and elevating AerieREAL Voices of our fam! In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we talked with our own Tracy Sheasley about her inspiring story of helping to build a community of love and support for cancer warriors and survivors. Tracy is sharing her story about the importance of early detection and how her positive experience of reading the stories of other survivors led her to choose to also share her voice. 

This is the body that will carry me through the difficult days, and this is the body that is going to fight and beat breast cancer.

-Aerie merchandise planning manager, Tracy Sheasley

Aerie: Tell us a little about yourself – how long you have worked for Aerie, what your role entails and what you love about your job!

Tracy: I celebrated 17 years with AEO in July!  The last 13 years have been with Aerie.  I’m a merchandise planning manager, and oversee the team that is responsible for creating the financial product plans to support our company’s growth strategy. We analyze current trends and performance to influence the next season’s buying decisions. It’s been amazing to be part of this brand and see the impact we’ve had on the industry, and on our customers.

I want to share my story with others to remind them of the importance of annual mammograms. 

Aerie: What fueled your desire to share your story about having breast cancer? 

Tracy: I feel incredibly fortunate to work with a team that has become a part of my family.  We celebrate the good times and help each other through the tough times. We’ve created a culture here at Aerie where we genuinely care about everyone’s well-being.  I want to share my story with others to remind them of the importance of annual mammograms.  This is something you must make time for no matter how busy you may be.

Aerie: Early detection can make a big difference in breast cancer treatment outcomes. Please share how you discovered that you have breast cancer and what preventative and early detection measures you’d recommend the Aerie fam take for their breast health.

Tracy: I’ve had annual screening mammograms for the past 10 years. It’s not uncommon for me to receive a call after a screening mammogram to come back for a diagnostic mammogram because I have dense breast tissue which makes it harder for a doctor to see abnormalities. The doctor would get the additional pictures needed, and then I always received good news – all clear, see you next year. After my annual screening mammogram in July, I got a call back for a diagnostic mammogram and thought no big deal – I told my husband I wasn’t worried at all because this always happens.  Except this year was different.  The diagnostic mammogram showed a mass that wasn’t there before.  The doctor was able to compare the images to previous mammograms and confirm that something had changed. He saw a tumor that wasn’t there before.  Getting annual mammograms is what caught this cancer early!

Aerie: In addition to receiving treatment for breast cancer itself, your healthcare team is focusing on a holistic approach to your wellbeing. Can you share some of the recommendations or care they’re offering you that have helped your overall well-being through this process?

I am very fortunate to live in Pittsburgh, where there is both incredible innovation in medical research, and overall health care. After my diagnosis, I was immediately assigned a nurse navigator to point me in the right direction, and to help keep track of all my appointments and tests, and was referred to a genetic counselor to help understand potential risks that I may have inherited. I spoke to a dietician who helped me understand the foods I should include in my diet to both prepare for, and recover from, surgery and radiation treatment.  I met with an oncology rehabilitation therapist who will work with me as I recover from surgery, and I was connected with Glimmer of Hope, a local non-profit organization that offers acupuncture and massage services for breast cancer patients to help the body heal. I’ve also taken advantage of programs offered specifically through AEO and our health insurance provider, which include meditation and physical therapy.  I’m incredibly grateful for the medical community, and feel very well supported.

Getting annual mammograms is what caught this cancer early!

Aerie: What would you like to tell anyone currently dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment?

Tracy: First, breast cancer is scary.  There’s no question about that, and it’s incredibly shocking when you hear the word cancer.  I couldn’t help but cry when the nurse gave me the diagnosis.  I obviously understood what breast cancer was but I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know what to do next.  I learned of my diagnosis late on the Friday afternoon of Labor Day weekend, then spent most of the long weekend searching the internet for as much information as possible. Everything I read said you will feel much better after meeting with the surgeon and putting together a plan.  I didn’t believe it when I read it, but it is absolutely true.  You really have to take things one day at a time, and you don’t know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.

Aerie: What would you like to tell anyone supporting someone in their life who is going through it?

Tracy: First and foremost, your friends and family must understand that you will have a new normal.  I’m going to look different, I’m going to feel different, and I’m going to be anxious when visiting any doctor or taking any medical tests. This is where having a strong support structure, who accepts you and all of these new things, becomes everything.  You can’t go through this alone.  You need family and friends to embrace you.  Having my husband by my side for every test, at every appointment, through surgery, and radiation treatments, gives me the strength and courage I need to beat this.  I can’t emphasize this enough.

Aerie: Any last words of encouragement, inspiration or gratitude that you’d like to share?

Tracy: I was both upset, and angry, when I got my diagnosis because I thought there was something wrong with me that allowed this to happen. I was mad at my body.  After a lot of research, I realized that I am not alone.  One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.  It’s one of life’s many challenges, and your only option is to accept it when it’s presented to you.  I had to tell myself that this is the body that will carry me through the difficult days, and this is the body that is going to fight and beat breast cancer.

After I had time to accept my diagnosis, I shared it with the Aerie team. The outpouring of support and encouragement was amazing.  It warms my heart and fills my soul.  Thank you to the Aerie team.  You mean more to me than you know.  xoxo

Learn more about how you can detect your risk for breast cancer and Bright Pink, whose mission is to accelerate, deepen and expand the impact of life-saving breast and ovarian health interventions.

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  1. Rachel Fisher

    2015 Cancer diagnosis changed my life forever. Found the best reconstruction ——Diep Flap with Micro surgeons Craigie and Kline in Charleston, SC.
    Diep uses your own tissue to create a warm natural breast. I am 68, a Mimi to 10 grandchildren and grateful to a skilled medical team!!

    1. Tracy

      Rachel – thank you for sharing! Agreed cancer is life changing! And so happy to hear that your 10 grandchildren have their wonderful Mimi thanks to a skilled medical team! xoxo

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