By Hannah Stevens @hannahshewans
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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Hannah Stevens, James Thorne
Editor: Beth Angus
Allyson Lynch, 30, started out as as a fit and catalogue model for alternative fashion brand Sourpuss clothing in 2014, but feared a breast cancer diagnosis would end her career before it could really take off.
The young woman from Philadelphia found the lump during a routine breast exam when she was just 26 and elected to have a bilateral mastectomy for 'peace of mind.'
Despite her fears, Allyson found that her experiences opened up even more doors for her modelling career and she hopes to encourage more survivors to embrace their new bodies.
Allyson told Barcroft TV: “You might feel like you’re losing your breasts, something that makes you so much of a woman, you’re still that woman inside.
“You’re still just as incredible as you were before.”
As her family has a history of breast cancer, Allyson quickly made a doctor’s appointment to get a confirmed diagnosis.
She was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and, because she carries the BRCA1 gene which gives her a higher chance of contracting cancer again, she elected to have a double mastectomy.
Allyson explained: “It was very upsetting, almost in shock. I have watched family members battle cancer but it’s totally different when you’re not the caregiver and you’re the patient. It was very, very scary.
“The hardest part was in the midst of chemo itself, I had never experienced anything like that in my entire life, my whole body hurt, the softest blankets felt like rocks, there were days that I just didn’t want to get up in the morning.
“But when it comes down to it you just keep pushing and you keep pushing and put one foot in front of the other and you eventually get through it.”
Although it took time to accept her new body after reconstructive surgery, the alternative model has learned to love the strength of her body even more.
She said: “It’s hard to lose a part of your body that is essentially very feminine overall, I will have to say I think I learned to love myself more than I did before and accept my body for what it is.
“It’s done a lot and, as much as it has disappointed me at times, it has also carried me through these hard battles.”
Since meeting her boyfriend Brian a year after finishing treatment, Allyson has had his constant support in rebuilding her confidence.
Allyson said: “Brian has helped me rebuild my self confidence because he has made me feel like that there is nothing that I can't do.
“He tells me I’m beautiful almost every single day.”
Brian Smith, 31, added: “I think I would describe Allyson as a loving warrior.
“After all that she has been through, I mean, she is the toughest person I know. She’s just been an advocate for the breast cancer community.”
Post-surgery Allyson decided to get floral tattoos in black and grey tattooed over her new breasts to reclaim her body.
She said: “I knew the best way for me to reclaim my body was to make it feel like me and I wanted something pretty and I would say the tattoos helped with my self-confidence because I just felt pretty, I didn’t feel like I had to look at these scars across my chest.”
After her diagnosis, Allyson thought that her battle with cancer would end her career as a model, instead it has opened more doors.
Earlier this year, she was asked to walk in the Ana Ono Lingerie show at the Angel Orensanz Foundation in New York.
The lingerie line is specifically designed for women who have been affected by breast cancer and only uses models who are currently fighting the disease or who have overcome it.
Project Cancerland, a non-profit media platform aiming to liberate the conversation around breast cancer, and Ana Ono partnered to host the show at the Foundation.
Founder of Ana Ono Dana Donofree said: “This year’s show is an important one because we’re partnered with Project Cancerland.
“We’re here with patients from previvers to those that are affected by this disease everyday to show the world that we will not hide.
“We will be loud and we will make change and we will fund research dollars so that so all of us get one more day with our loved ones.”
Supported by her mother and her boyfriend, Allyson walked fiercely down the catwalk.
Of the experience Allyson said: “It was really overwhelming experience. I didn’t know what to expect. being around individuals who have been through something like you have is so inspiring.
“To be able to be a part of this, that’s raising money and helping to find a cure for the cancer that kills all these women year after year - being so involved I have seen so many girls die and it’s heartbreaking.
“So if I can do anything to see less people die and at least ensure even my own longevity. I wanna know that if this comes back, we will be able to fight it.”
Allyson hopes to inspire more survivors to find empowerment in their bodies.
She said: “Modelling is very empowering, it’s something I feel like any woman should do.
“It’s given me the courage to get out there and do things that I would have never done before, getting cancer, the tattoos, everything, just really helped show that life’s short and you gotta enjoy it and do the things you wanna try.”