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Hope in Sharing and Symmetry

Sometimes hope and inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. The popular social media app TikTok is best known for dances, DIY tips, and wellness information, but Michelle L. uses this platform to uplift and inspire others. 

County government employee and Personal Symmetrics patient Michelle, 32, is a survivor of stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. After undergoing a bilateral mastectomy in October 2023, she underwent breast reconstruction. Shortly after, her right breast implant was removed due to a rare bacterial infection. Personal Symmetrics in Cincinnati measured her for a custom breast prosthesis, and she was fit in April 2024. 

Michelle uses her TikTok account, @chelleeashlee, to share videos about her experience with breast cancer, information about her prosthesis, and her experience with Personal Symmetrics and American Breast Care (ABC). 

At age 31, Michelle was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, triple negative breast cancer accounts for 10-15 percent of all breast cancers and tends to be more common in women younger than age 40. 

While it is recommended that women receive mammograms starting at the age of 40, there are exceptions for those with family history or specific gene mutations. Michelle does not have a family history of breast cancer, and her genetic testing results were negative. 

“I do believe that (the screening age) should be lowered to include younger women,” she said. “Early detection can save lives. Unfortunately, women below the age of 40 with breast cancer tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and have decreased survival rates.  By the time I was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes in my armpit. If screenings were recommended at younger age, perhaps I would have been diagnosed at an earlier stage.”

While undergoing a bilateral mastectomy to remove the cancer and subsequent breast reconstruction, Michelle had great support from her family and friends. About six weeks after her reconstruction, she noticed her right breast was swollen, red, and hot to the touch. After replacing the implant, she was diagnosed with mycobacterium fortuitum, a rare bacterial infection. A doctor recommended she permanently remove the implant. 

“Losing my implant was not only physically taxing but it was devastating for me,” Michelle said. “I felt very insecure about only having one breast. I remember looking in the mirror and just sobbing the first time I took the bandages off after my surgery. I no longer recognized my body. It made me feel less attractive. Shirts and bras did not fit me properly and I felt it was very noticeable that I no longer had a breast on that side. I felt everyone knew that I looked different.”

Michelle then tried prostheses from Amazon and Knitted Knockers, a national organization that provides knitted breast prostheses for breast cancer survivors. 

“There is a huge difference between a prosthesis and a prosthesis that is custom fitted for your body,” Michelle said. “The prostheses that were not fitted for me were not the correct size, and they slid around in my bra making it very uncomfortable. It was a little embarrassing because I would have to keep readjusting the prosthesis. Some days, I chose not to wear it for that reason.” 

After experiencing the frustration of attempting to find a prosthesis and bras that fit her, Michelle discovered Personal Symmetrics in Cincinnati. Personal Symmetrics is the tri-state leader for providing custom breast prostheses, and partners with ABC and other organizations to ensure that every patient feels comfortable and confident in her skin. 

“The process of creating a customized prosthesis is very cool,” Michelle said. “Personal Symmetrics scanned my left side where I currently have an implant. They matched my skin tone. When I went in to try on my customized prosthesis, I was very impressed. It was realistic, soft, and not too heavy.” She has since recommended Personal Symmetrics to those experiencing similar situations.

“We are so honored to be a part of Michelle and other women’s stories,” Tammy Franklin, Personal Symmetrics Clinical Director and Certified Post Mastectomy Fitter, said. “We not only fit breast prostheses to help women feel beautiful, but we talk, laugh, cry and listen to and with them.”  

 “Tammy and Katheen were so kind and compassionate,” Michelle said. “They listened to me about what I was looking for and stayed in contact with me about my prosthesis and asked how everything was working for me.”

Michelle now wears her customized prosthesis every day.

“It is so comfortable that I forget I am wearing a prosthesis,” she said. “You would never be able to tell I am wearing one; even people who know my situation say they cannot tell the difference.” 

This has helped her see her body as beautiful once again. “I have since become accepting and kinder to my body,” Michelle said. “Having a customized prosthesis has definitely helped me with that acceptance process.”

When Michelle was first diagnosed with breast cancer, she took to social media to find information from other women who were going through a similar situation. She started to document her own journey through TikTok, with the intent to share information about topics that originally, she could not find, like mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, the side effects of treatment, her prostheses experience, and even her custom fitting experience with Personal Symmetrics and ABC. 

“I am able to talk through what I’m experiencing and let out all of my thoughts and feelings,” she said. “It’s not only helpful for others, it also helps me process in real time what I am going through.” 

“When you share and are open about your experiences, your grief starts to dissipate and become less of a burden,” Tammy said. 

Michelle’s videos have connected her to women across the country who can relate to her experiences. She hopes that her TikTok videos will continue to help others in some way. She says she wants others to know the good and the bad, and those with reconstruction failure that they are not alone and there are resources out there to help. 

“Michelle’s bravery to share her feelings and bring awareness to gynecological cancers through her videos will help many women view themselves and their cancer diagnoses differently,” Tammy said. “Her positive attitude is infectious.” 

“I hope that anyone watching my videos will feel validated in their feelings and feel less alone through this process,” Michelle said. “Going through cancer completely changes your life.” 

You can find Michelle on TikTok @chelleeashlee.

For more information about Personal Symmetrics’ custom prostheses and other services, visit