Bobbi's Story - The motivation behind the Sisters In Pink Collection

Personality Plates founder, Amy Rees with her mother, Bobbi Strauss  and the Sisters In Pink in honor of breast cancer awareness

My mom, Bobbi, is one of the reasons I created the Sisters In Pink Collection. I can’t even call her a breast cancer ‘survivor’ because she didn’t ‘survive’ life; she is living it to its fullest! I wanted to share her powerful story.

The year was 1957 and women were typically told to be modest and not share too much. My mom had discovered a lump in her breast at the young age of 16. At a time when topics like breast cancer were often shrouded in secrecy, my mother felt she needed to bear her burden in silence. She was part of an incredibly unique group; less than .05% of teenagers were diagnosed with breast cancer back then. Her ordeal was an anomaly even by today's standards. For two years, my mom quietly lived with the increasing discomfort until it became impossible to ignore, compelling her to finally confide in my grandmother.

Once officially diagnosed with breast cancer at 18 years old, the doctor performed a life-saving mastectomy. With no options for reconstructive surgery available at that time, she endured not only the physical trauma but the emotional distress of feeling alone, isolated, and irreparably damaged. The burden was immense, further exacerbated by the loss of her father a decade earlier.

Although she had the love and support of her mother and her brother, the societal taboos and lack of understanding left her feeling alone and at times forgotten. It was decided that her mastectomy would be kept a secret so no one would know that she was, in her own words, ‘deformed.’  She told me “They thought they were protecting me by keeping it a secret. It was 1959 and they didn’t want people looking at me differently.”

This left my mom without any kind of support group. She felt like she couldn't even confide in her closest friends. Part of it was the stigma and part of it was her own insecurities about someone finding out what had happened to her body.  She never got to go shopping with friends, or have sleepovers at her sorority house, because she didn’t want anyone to know her secret. It left her feeling very alone.

In 1959, at the age of 18, my mom, Bobbi, was believed to be one of the youngest people to ever have a mastectomy.

When she was in the hospital recovering, she would wake up to photographers taking her picture, or students standing around her taking notes. Here she was trying to deal with this devastating incident, and they were taking pictures of her for medical journals. They treated her as if she were an experiment, a medical phenomenon. They forgot that she was also an 18-year-old girl.

My mom was sure she would never  know the joy of love and marriage. But life had a beautiful surprise in store for her. She met my dad at Syracuse University. He proposed to her three times before she finally let her guard down, pushing past her insecurities and fears. The love story that unfolded between my parents is a testament to the power of true love, and the kind of man my dad was.

As an only child, my mother and I have always shared an extraordinary bond, with our relationship deepening after my father's premature death over two decades ago. For years, my mom lived with the silent scars of her mastectomy, an experience she had kept private for so long. Even when society became more open about breast cancer, she remained guarded. I remember my teenage years and the look of fear on my mom’s face if an unexpected visitor rang the doorbell before she was dressed, and her bra and prosthesis were in place.

Yet, amid all her trials, my mother has always exuded positivity, gratitude, and grace. She has never viewed herself as a victim, but rather a survivor; someone who considers herself fortunate for the time she had with my father, and for the joys of being a mother and a grandmother. She stands today as a beacon of hope and strength.


Amy Rees and her mom Bobbi Strauss, breast cancer survivorPersonality Plates founder Amy Rees and her mom, Bobbi Strauss - mother and daughter funPersonality Plates founder, Amy Rees and her mother, Bobbi Strauss. Mother and daughter laughing