For Ellyn Winters-Robinson, getting the news she had breast cancer was “crippling.”

“You just don’t think this would ever happen to you. I was healthy,” she said. “I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I’ve been punched in the stomach, and that all the air had been sucked out of my lungs.”

In January, the Cambridge, Ont. woman found a lump in her left breast while doing a self-examine in the bathtub. She said she immediately went to the doctor and got a mammogram done.

“They could tell right away I have three tumours in my left breast, and they could see from the radiology. There was something called spiculation, they’re growing out towards each other, so it was clear indication that they [the lumps] were cancer.”

She underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and was told she needed to have a single mastectomy, noting that the surgical guidance was to leave the unaffected breast alone.

However, Winters-Robinson decided to do a double mastectomy.

Ellyn Winters-Robinson

“For me, it was just easier to take both,” she said. “I didn’t want to be harnessed to a prosthesis all my life. Women will either look lopsided, or they’re going have to wear a prosthesis.”

Instead of getting breast implants, Winters-Robinson decided to go “flat.”

Ellyn Winters-Robinson

“The assumption in the medical community and the presumption is that all women want to reconstruct -- they want Barbie back together again -- and I chose to stay flat,” she said.

“What is concerning to me is that the medical community doesn’t present flat as an option. So when you sit down with a doctor, a doctor will often say 'here you can do implants,' or you can do what they call a DIEP flap, which is they use your own tissue. They don’t typically present flat.”

She said she now feels empowered in her new body and wants to use her story to inspire other women.

Winters-Robinson is urging women to regularly check their breasts through a self-examination or mammograms. She also said it’s important for people to advocate for their health.

“I feel like I got this fire that’s lit under me now. I want to make a difference, share my story, help other women not be afraid, not be ashamed.”