I had the pleasure of talking with Ann Ramsdell, a master-certified life coach specializing in coaching and providing emotional support for breast cancer patients. We discussed her journey as a breast cancer survivor and women’s health advocate, as well as her experience with breast reconstruction. Ann’s story is about how she, through hope and self-discovery, decided to dedicate herself to helping and inspiring women like her.
Ann first met Dr. Kline and our team after her initial stage III breast cancer diagnosis in 2009. However, due to the complexity of this diagnosis, she couldn’t start the breast reconstruction process immediately.
While she did have to focus on navigating her cancer treatment, her decision to wait wasn’t just a medically driven choice. She also had two small children to take care of and was handling other personal situations.
She met with us early to begin learning about her breast reconstruction options. Although reconstruction couldn’t be her top priority at that point, she wanted to prepare for when it would become her primary focus.
After her first appointment, Ann chose Dr. Kline to perform her breast reconstruction. She quickly realized that The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction was the right place for her because of the respect and support she felt during her initial visit.
An essential part of Ann’s healthcare experience is feeling empowered to make decisions about her body. Dr. Kline and our entire team carefully and compassionately listened to her; she didn’t feel rushed into starting reconstruction when she wasn’t ready or able to begin the process.
She remained without breasts (and with the resulting scars) for two years after her bilateral mastectomy. She took this time to learn how to live with her new body, calling it a “luxury” to have the ability to wait.
Ann felt confident and ready to take the first step when she finally began her breast reconstruction journey. Because she met with Dr. Kline early, she understood the type of surgery she wanted and what this procedure would entail.
“What do you need, and who is taking care of you?”
Ann’s coaching practice mainly focuses on supporting breast cancer patients through cancer treatment, recovery, and breast reconstruction. While each woman’s medical team is working to heal her physically, Ann seeks to restore her emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
She provides personalized coaching to help women through their unique situations. She offers programs about “Cancer and Spirituality,” “Body Image and Sexuality,” “New Cancer Diagnosis,” and “Cancer Recurrence,” along with others that focus on each client’s specific needs.
“We all draw from our personal experiences. Why would we not? It’s all data.”
Ann’s life journey has always significantly influenced her line of work. When she started her private practice before her diagnosis, she wasn’t yet coaching breast cancer patients.
As a scientist, she first coached women who also worked in science-related fields. These professionals “had everything on paper but weren’t necessarily happy.” Although her clients were driven and successful, they wanted more out of life than their careers.
Ann’s professional life began to change after her breast cancer diagnosis. She explained that this transition started when she pursued personal growth and intention despite grief and anger.
She took her diagnosis as permission to elevate joy and self-empowerment. She began focusing on the things in life that she considered truly meaningful.
As Ann continued to seek this fulfillment, others started to notice her new outlook on life. They wished to find the happiness and freedom she now possessed: “They wanted what I had.”
In 2020, Ann’s second diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer forced her to face a new reality: she would now have active cancer cells in her body for the rest of her life. She then had to learn to pursue joy while knowing she would always be fighting against her illness.
By working to reconnect with her body, she was able to take steps to mend this internal relationship over time:
“It started more slowly with just, really, reconnecting with physical sensation, and by that, I mean things like sitting outdoors and feeling the sun on my cheeks or enjoying a fresh piece of fruit…Cancer does a number on us…A common experience is that when we get the diagnosis, we shut down. We disconnect from our bodies. There is a sense of betrayal that we sometimes experience. There’s grief; there’s anger. There’s fear. There is a lot of criticism and judgement that we put on our altered appearance, and it takes time to kind of work back out of that mindset.”
Ann wished to teach other women how to work through this detachment and disapproval they felt within themselves. However, she also realized that many of these women’s experiences with breast cancer and reconstruction were very different from hers.
As she talked with Dr. Kline, our medical staff, and other breast cancer patients, she began to see that many women needed help that they were not receiving. It saddened her to learn that these patients were not finding support or guidance from others who truly understood what they were experiencing.
She then made it her mission to use the knowledge she gained from her journey to help these women find peace. After her second diagnosis, Ann expanded her practice to coaching breast cancer patients who were also facing this difficult journey.
“You’re here…What are you going to do with it?”
Through her work as a life coach, Ann hopes to help women pursue their joys and passions despite their difficult circumstances. She wants them to “actively live their lives”: “I don’t mean that on a superficial level. I mean really go after the things that make it worth being here.”
She said she didn’t survive breast cancer twice to not go after the things in life that make her happy. She asks women to consider this important question: “Why else are we going through treatment if not to pursue the things that make life richer and more meaningful?”
Because of her journey, she understands that most people don’t consider the level of individual freedom and creative ability they hold. Discovering that she had more personal agency than she ever realized was “mind-blowing” to her.
She hopes to empower all women to explore their meaning and purpose. Regardless of whether they are facing a cancer diagnosis, she wants them to celebrate their existence and learn to create and enjoy the opportunities in front of them.
Ann often discusses breast reconstruction with her clients, providing information based on what she learned during her experience. She wants them to understand that they can make many of their own decisions about reconstruction.
She also emphasizes to each woman the importance of finding a medical team that truly supports her and allows her to take the time she needs when considering her reconstruction options. When working with her providers, her client should remember that the best time to start this process is ultimately up to her.
“And, of course, I recommend Dr. Kline and Dr. Craigie. They really are the best.”
As a master-certified life coach, spiritualist, and biomedical scientist, Ann Ramsdell is a proverbial outside-the-box thinker. She draws upon 15 years of professional and personal experiences as a medical school professor, a Women’s and Gender Studies academic, and a breast cancer survivor to offer exciting — and often unexpected — perspectives on health and disease.
Ann is passionate about helping women navigate their life challenges; she believes that healing is possible for everyone, no matter the diagnosis. Ann uses her innovative coaching programs, retreats, and speaking engagements to educate, empower, and inspire all women to take charge of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Ann was awarded her first breast cancer research patent in 2021, and she now has a second patent pending. She has appeared in notable publications, including the Hollings Cancer Center’s Changing What’s Possible campaign and Quanta Magazine.
In 2015, she was a speaker at TEDxColumbiaSC, where she gave a talk titled “Left-Right Difference in Breast Cancer Inspiring New Research.” Ann is also thrilled to be a spokesperson in the forthcoming 2023 Metavivor #ThisIsMBC IMAGINE project.
When Ann is not busy coaching clients, speaking on stages, or consulting with biomedical grant writers, she enjoys forest bathing, searching for taco trucks, and traveling the globe to share adventures and make memories with her favorite people.
You can read more about Ann’s life coaching services at https://www.annramsdell.com/ and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.