Annie recently had the pleasure of meeting Andy Zuber at a styled shoot with Rustic Light Photography & Drzaga Photo. Andy was there to have photos taken of her wearing a beautiful boho wedding dress to give to her husband, Nick. When she and Nick were married years ago, they didn’t get to have the wedding of their dreams and Andy didn’t get to wear the wedding dress of her dreams. After two years of grueling chemotherapy and surgery, Andy wanted to celebrate the beautiful, strong, resilient body that carried her through in a beautiful wedding dress.
Annie, and everyone at the shoot, were inspired by her story, presence, and passion. Andy is an amazing woman who has survived cancer and has tapped into a deep lust for life. She is so open and willing to talk about the challenges and insights resulting from her experience with illness so we asked her to share her story. What follows is her inspiring, authentic, honest story.
“It really is the little things…”
“Having cancer flipped my entire world upside down, and while I was there all the superficial, materialistic parts of life fell away and the precious details that go ignored were screaming in my face.
It’s cliche, but it really is the little things. Everything we need in life is in the details. After my diagnosis I was floating in a void. I had two choices; I could give up or I could choose radical acceptance. I chose radical acceptance, because that is where the light is. That’s where self-love lives. Take care of your whole self; mind, body, spirit and soul. And as I always say, grow through what you go through. I hope my story is an inspiration for that.”
Andy wore Let It Fringes, an all lace, bohemian wedding dress from Rembo Styling. She writes from the heart about her bohemian spirit and why the dress was perfect. She is an amazing, inspiring woman with a story to tell. A woman in love, a mom, a pediatric nurse, a cancer survivor, and a beautiful lady with a bohemian spirit and a way with words, Andy is embracing life one moment at a time and telling her story to inspire others. We asked her to share her story and a few of the photographs that document what an incredible day was had.
My name is Andrea Zuber, I’m 35 and over-the-moon married to my twin-flame love, Nick. We are the proud parents to two beautiful boys, Andrew (6) and Owen (3). Nick is a full-time musician. He’s been playing locally in Cleveland for over 10 years and toured the country doing what he loves. I was a full-time nurse. Once a nurse, always a nurse but unfortunately I’m a nurse with a story to tell. A beautiful, messy story, but such is life. It’s so much fun to think back to the beginning when it all began….
Nick Zuber. The man of my dreams. How did I get so lucky?! Nick and I met for our first date on April 4, 2013. It was a casual date, I remember not wanting to be too serious. We grabbed a few drinks and a meal locally and that’s the moment that I fell in love with my husband.
We went on our first date and haven’t left each other since. Nick proposed to me only four months later on August 3, 2013. We married on April 4, 2014, on the anniversary of the day we met. We’ll be celebrating our seven year anniversary. It’s impossible to feel anything but love, light and peace right from the core of your soul when you’re with him. Nick gives his heart and soul for the people that he loves.
Nick and I were living a simple, lovely but busy life. I was a pediatric nurse working two triage jobs. I would leave the house early in the morning, get home with enough time for dinner and some time with my family and then Nick and I would both go to work.
A Life Changing Event
In retrospect, that is NOT the way to do life. In April 2019 I crawled into my first MRI ever, only to be pulled out shortly after getting started. I had been having intermittent left shoulder pain, swelling and decreased range of motion. My pain became severe and more persistent, my swelling became severe and my range of motion was getting worse. I had started seeing doctors for shoulder pain and was misdiagnosed three times before I was able to get the MRI that day that found my tumor.
The techs pulled me from the MRI to add equipment to my chest to get different pictures. That’s when I started panicking. I remember the tech asking me “how long has this been going on?” (Gulp) Being a nurse, my red flags were up. They pulled me back out of the machine and I said “is it a tumor?”, but they couldn’t tell me anything. I got dressed and they asked my husband and I to talk with the radiologist. It was a large, cold and empty conference room. My husband and I sat in two of the hundreds of empty chairs and the radiologist walked in. He didn’t pull up a chair. He stood above us and in twenty seconds or less told us that there was a mass and it was very likely that I had cancer.
I was diagnosed with a very rare, aggressive cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. Great news was that it was localized to my shoulder blade/rotator cuff muscles without spreading to the rest of my body. It’s a pediatric/adolescent bone/soft tissue cancer, I’m considered to be quite rare. In May 2019 I started treatment. I received five different chemo drugs. At times, my regimen being equivalent to a 40-50 hour work week.
After my third cycle, in August 2019, I had limb salvage surgery, a full scapulectomy. They removed my entire scapula and all of my rotator cuff muscles and reconstructed a new “shoulder” for me.
My humerus bone is suspended from my collar bone, leaving me totally and permanently disabled. After my surgery, we learned that I had a less than desirable response to chemotherapy. I needed radiation and a different chemo treatment plan. I did 6 weeks/31 sessions of max dose radiation while continuing with two new chemotherapy drugs. It was a nightmare, but with great love, purpose and resilience I completed treatment the week of Christmas 2019 NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE; the words sarcoma patients yearn to hear. I made it. I did it. We did it.
When treatment ends, the hard work starts. There’s a common misconception with cancer that things go back to “normal”, unfortunately that’s not the case. I was diagnosed with PTSD secondary to the care I received prior to my diagnosis, my diagnosis and the aftermath. That’s when I fell in love with our universe and Mother Earth. They have been integral parts of my healing. Cancer changes you from the inside out. You have new eyes, new perspectives, new morals and values.
In many ways it teaches you how to live the way you really want to. The important things come to the forefront and the rest falls away. Prior to my diagnosis I was lacking something, I didn’t know it then but I do now. I didn’t have self-love. I was someone who took care of everyone else first, never paying much attention to Andrea. Couple that with caring entirely too much about the way I looked and what people thought about me. I was my own worst critic. My cancer and my PTSD is enough for me to crawl into a cave and weep. I can’t let that happen. So I put in the hard work. I accepted my disfigurement, I accepted my disability. I found love for myself and all of my imperfections. We all have them. You can let them define you or you can continue to bloom, no matter where life plants you.
July 2020 the cancer was back. During routine surveillance scans they found two small spots in my lung. Teeny tiny. They wanted to “wait and watch” and I said no. I had lung surgery in Aug 2020 where they removed those nodules and confirmed my relapse. I began treatment again in September and completed treatment just recently. I’m back in “surveillance”.
When I finished this round of treatment, I wanted to celebrate! A different sort of celebration. A celebration of self-love and embracing imperfections. This love that I have for myself and my body, I needed it in photographs. I am bald, disabled, and my body looks like it’s been sitting in a chemo chair for two years. My body has carried me, it’s kept me alive. It wakes up every morning eager to breathe, eager for love and the sun. I’m so grateful for it even though it might be squishy, disfigured, scarred and bruised.
The Photo Shoot
The photo shoot was heaven on earth. I was spoiled by an amazing group of beautiful, artistic women. I felt at home. The beautiful floral sculpture was whimsical and reminded me of the woods. My healing space. We chose the most perfect bohemian pieces.
My photoshoot was a moment where I said goodbye to the old Andrea, the harsh, critical one and said hello to self-loving Andrea. I felt such a connection to my bohemian wardrobe, because I would say that I am bohemian. To embrace a bohemian lifestyle is to embrace a life full of simplicity. Bohemians always believe that every positive vibe they send in the world flows it’s way back to them. Bohemian attire is my favorite. I connect with it in the same way I’ve connected with the Earth. The dresses can be simple, and they can have the most beautiful, intricate details, too. The pieces I wore in my photoshoot made me feel beautiful, free and spiritual. I felt like my inside matched my outside. Self-love. I looked at the details on every piece. Beautiful is an understatement.
If you asked me two years ago if I ever saw myself prancing around a studio naked or in sexy lingerie so that two strangers could take pictures of me, I would laugh in your face. Enter self-love. What better way to embrace yourself?! I’ve always wanted to gift my husband with boudoir, but I never had the guts. I was too critical of myself. It was another step in my self-love journey to strip down and prance naked. It felt good. It was liberating. It was comfortable because of the beautiful, kind ladies behind the cameras. It was sexy, raw and bare and I highly recommend signing yourself up. I felt like I was celebrating being a woman, imperfections and all. I killed two birds with one stone. Self-love for me, sexy forever photos for my husband. WIN!
Having cancer flipped my entire world upside down, and while I was there all the superficial, materialistic parts of life fell away and the precious details that go ignored were screaming in my face. It’s cliche, but it really is the little things. Everything we need in life is in the details. After my diagnosis I was floating in a void. I had two choices; I could give up or I could choose radical acceptance. I chose radical acceptance, because that is where the light is. That’s where self-love lives. Take care of your whole self; mind, body, spirit and soul. And as I always say, grow through what you go through. I hope my story is an inspiration for that.
If you’re interested in following Andy’s journey – visit her website https://wildflowerwarrior.org/
Photography: @rusticlightphotography, @drzagaphoto| Planning: @lavenderandlacerentals | Dress: Let It Fringes from Rembo Styling @ivoryandashbridal | Makeup: @sarahdelainebrides @mua.babyj | Floral: @leaf_homeandblooms | Location: @sixthcitystudio