Recover, Reconnect, Reclaim
About the Cover Model
By Annette Pinder
Originally from Virginia near Washington DC, Amy Hartl attended Mary Washington College, majored in English literature, and pursued many interests before becoming an oncological massage and lymphatic drainage therapist. Amy was drawn to working with women impacted by breast cancer since she and several generations before her share the BRCA-1 genetic mutation, and her mom was just 38 years-old when she was diagnosed with aggressive hormone negative breast cancer.
Growing up high-risk, Amy began mammogram screening when she was 23. After meeting her husband Dathan, a native Buffalonian living in Virginia, the couple married and moved to Buffalo in 2014. With an 87 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, she enrolled in Roswell’s high-risk breast clinic where she was monitored biannually. In 2017, at the age of 41, Amy was diagnosed with hormone positive stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma.
Amy underwent bilateral mastectomies, breast implant reconstruction, and removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes all during one 7½-hour surgery performed by three surgeons. She was declared cancer-free after the surgery and had eight rounds of chemotherapy over four months to reduce her risk of recurrence. She says, “I lost my hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows, was sick, and slept a lot. I was able to take time to heal because I was self-employed, without any children, and my husband worked from home and was an attentive caregiver. The support from family and friends, including on social media, was incredible, and most importantly, I knew what to expect. I’d worked with breast cancer survivors for five years prior to my own diagnosis, and women shared their experiences with me, including their reconstructed breasts. They let me into their lives.”
Understanding that each woman’s experience with breast cancer is unique, Amy works to help them reconnect with their bodies and find comfort again in their own skin. Women often tell her, “I don’t like to look in the mirror anymore.” Amy says, “Each woman gets to do this her own way. Some of us want to put breast cancer behind us. Some of us want to remember who we are as women, not just survivors, allowing the experience to be one of many in a lifetime.”
Since her own diagnosis Amy’s work as an oncology massage and manual lymphatic drainage therapist has evolved. In addition to her hands-on massage practice, she created an online membership community called AS WE ARE NOW helping women rediscover themselves beyond breast cancer. They work through topics like nutrition, skincare, intimacy, body image, and more. “Our motto is Recover, Reconnect, Reclaim. We deal with survivorship, the time after treatment, that is really just the rest of our lives. We give women, including those with metastatic disease, a safe space to connect, share, and focus on things that matter to us as women, despite our cancer status.”
Through it all, Amy doesn’t view breast cancer as the worst experience of her life. More difficult, she says, was the loss of her stepdad when she was 29 years old. “I was also separating from my first husband and college sweetheart at the time. It brought up old issues I experienced in losing my biological dad at age four. My stepdad chose me and gave me my brother and sister and me a happy life. It was a lot of loss at once.”
When it comes to her health now, Amy aims for a balanced diet saying, “I don’t avoid foods due to fear. I opt for more veggies and limit things that don’t agree with me like processed foods. I love sushi and Mexican, and if I could only eat one thing again, it would be avocado. I also try to walk a few miles daily. My mom taught me that it helped her heal during her treatment.”
When Amy isn’t working and the world is not in the midst of a global pandemic, she and her husband love traveling, and they hope to go somewhere fun by next summer. However, she takes the pandemic seriously, and only recently began working with people in-person again following strict safety protocols.
Amy encourages annual screening and monthly self-exams. She offers women free discovery call consultations to see if her services are a good fit for them. Her massage studio is located at 503 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo with plenty of off-street parking. Call her at 716-215-2621 and visit her at www.amyhartl.com to learn more.