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In Bed With

Danielle Van Noy

In Bed With is a semi-annual interview series with interesting women still figuring life out.

All images & text by Danielle Van Noy.
Editor’s Note
When Danielle first DM’d me, I didn’t have a personal connection to cancer of any kind. I knew Oct = #breastcancerawareness month and her openness drew me in. Then, life happened. Two weeks after our first DM, a close family member was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Suddenly Danielle’s story took on a more personal light.

Who’s that lady?

Name Danielle Van Noy
Occupation Interdisciplinary designer
Age 34
Location Hudson Valley

When did you receive your diagnosis?

It was early December. I was 31. The call came at 7 AM, the news by phone. A few weeks later, after further testing, I got a second and separate diagnosis in my other breast — super duper rare. And frankly, I thought I was going to die… My reality was blown away.

What gave you an inkling that something was wrong?

It was a cup of lemonade on a flight back from Portugal — pink lemonade for Breast Cancer Awareness in October that nudged me to get a second opinion.

Earlier in the spring, I had expressed concern to my GYN about a small sesame-seed sized abnormality in my right breast. She had shrugged off any worry. A few months later in October, on the plane, when I felt for the lump, it had grown to the size of a grape. I made a call the next day for a mammogram… Pink lemonade: I do know firsthand how these little nudges for awareness can save a life!

How have you grappled with a changing body?

After my double mastectomy, where I decided against reconstruction, I had to get to know a new form. There have been some difficult moments and seasons of processing. I can’t help but mention the day I cleaned out my top drawers, throwing away all the bras and brand new lingerie that I no longer filled — in a fit of rage, tears, and grief… Oh, and the bra ads that would singe at my heart until the nerve numbed. Until recently, my drawers were left empty.

How has your perspective shifted?

Nearly three years since those diagnoses, I am still here, feeling like an utterly different person and miracle. I am so thankful for this precious and delicate little gift of time and life. To have watched my form experience so much — I have a new respect for my body and its resilience. I love every inch of this vehicle. You really can’t heal a body you hate.

I’ve become so thankful for the body and all the ways it carries us through such ups and downs — such a range of feelings — providing us the full experience that is life. The more I learn, the more I value this vessel… The scars become the clinks of a raised glass. The wrinkles, dimples, pain — the drips of wine and memory…

What has surpised you in the process?

What I’d like to assert most of all is that self acceptance and self care don’t always come naturally, but, rather, with rebellious and sometimes grief-fueled dedication to a sense of safety, pleasure, and joy in one’s body. Engaging my senses, delighting in the sensations of my skin… I push beyond the discomfort to find the magic.

We often see strength and confidence and get misled by an idea of ease, not seeing the difficulty, forgetting the deliberation and tenacity it takes to assert oneself with confidence and love.

We often see strength and confidence and get misled by an idea of ease, not seeing the difficulty, forgetting the deliberation and tenacity it takes to assert oneself with confidence and love.

What would you tell the rest of us who struggle with accepting ourselves and our bodies?

To accept one’s body, is to accept one’s life. I feel we should soak up every high, every low, every contour, every scar… rather than looking for perfection, which is an illusion. Embrace what aches for the finding of light and the full indulgence of living.
As I have embraced my scars and flat chest, I have done so without wanting to lose a sense of femininity and softness. Slowing my pace to the frequency of self-care, gentle movement, breath… my senses have become tools and guides to feeling myself + feeling a sense of wellness.

And for any folks with boobs (most of you!), Danielle has a couple pointers for you

  1. Find out if there is a history of breast cancer (or any cancer) in your family. Ask questions!
  2. Get handsy with your boobs! Know the baseline for what feels “normal”
  3. Get a second opinion if something doesn’t feel right! Don’t ignore the doubts/thoughts in your head. You are your best advocate!
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