Survivor Portrait Gallery

Hillary Oak

Westwood, New Jersey
Age 30
22-year breast cancer survivor

What does being a Survivor mean to you?
It means I have strength beyond my years and that I am a fighter. It means I have battled and won. It means that cancer can strike at any age and that we all have our own story.

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of five. My second tumor was found when I was six and my last tumor at the age of eight. So at my current age of thirty, I am a twenty-two year survivor of breast cancer. In order to remove my last tumor, my entire breast was removed. As I entered my teenage years, my one breast never developed. I quickly learned to be embarrassed and ashamed of my cancer. I dealt with every comment and evil joke you could imagine. Having scars and only one breast brings an entirely new fear to changing for gym class or wearing a bathing suit at the beach. This was my battle with breast cancer.

I underwent my first reconstructive surgery at the age of sixteen and my last at twenty-five. There is a part of me that hates my scars. I carry that constant fear from my childhood. I am still that young girl who worries what people would think if they knew my story. My battle with breast cancer is different, but still a battle. I beat cancer at a very young age, yet I have fought and continue to fight the aftermath everyday. I could not begin to tell you what a “normal” childhood is like, but I can tell you what it is to be a fighter and a survivor, and it is pretty amazing!

How has being a Survivor affected your life?
Having cancer so young did force me to grow up rather quickly. I initially learned to be embarrassed about my cancer and hide it from everyone. It has only been over the past few years that I have realized breast cancer does not define me. My journey with breast cancer and the battle I was lucky to fight and win is what shaped me into the person I am today, not the cancer. It allowed me to see how precious friends and family are and how important it is to love and support each other. My journey taught me not to judge, that everyone has his or her own struggles. I treasure these lessons, the strength I have been given, and the knowledge I have that I can conquer anything life throws my way.

How would you like to be photographed?
In a park or by the ocean. Nothing makes me happier than being outside in the sun, laughing, with great company.

Learn about Survivor Portrait Gallery and how to become a featured Survivor.