There are many labels that have defined my life. Wanderer. Picky Eater. Dancer. Runner. Yogi. Business Owner. Rebellious. Headstrong. Impatient. Aunt. Sister. Daughter.
And as of July 2019: Breast Cancer Survivor.
If you’re reading this, you probably want my cancer stats. Those fun diagnostic terms that you become intimately familiar with after your diagnosis.
- I am 27 years old.
- Had no BRCA gene mutation.
- A non-compelling family history of breast cancer.
- Yet a 7 centimeter mass of triple positive breast cancer had invaded my body and spread to my lymph nodes.
I had many plans for 2019. I had recently moved to Bend, Oregon. Had a boyfriend. Was coming off of a hip surgery. I envisioned my year like a beautifully curated Instagram profile. Trail runs in the Pacific Northwest. Craft brewery nights. Holding the hand of my new love as we traveled and explored. I deemed it my comeback year.
Almost exactly one year ago on February 12, 2019, that trajectory completely changed. With one phone call from the imaging center pathologist, I had added a new label to my identity. At that point it was Breast Cancer Patient. It skipped the line and dominated over any other label. It permeated into my plans and goals. It rewrote my story without my consent.
When I was diagnosed, I wanted to put faces and names to having cancer at a young age. I knew the statistics. I knew the fancy terms and clinical realities from my oncology team. But I wanted more than that. I wanted to know the harsh realities of other women who had faced cancer in their formative young adult years. I wanted to know what it was like to be 27, losing your hair, confined to a bed, going through menopause, losing your sex drive, balancing work and cancer….the list went on and on.
And what I discovered is a vast emptiness for these harsh realities and real truths. Many articles I landed on had a bit of a fairy tale plot. “I was diagnosed with cancer. Made it through beautifully. Had a great support group throughout. And now I’m a better person afterwards.” If I was going into a battle, I wanted to be armed with as many truths as possible, even if many of those truths were hard to swallow.
So, I started writing my own truths. At first, the writing was for me. It was cathartic and helped me accept whatever new reality I was facing. And then I started publishing these stories very publicly. I called my writing “The Breast Kept Secrets.” (I’m very proud of thinking of that with chemo brain!) Somewhere along the way, I made it my mission to add my voice to the very small catalog of stories of young women with cancer. And then I met Fighting Pretty. I was entranced with Kara, Corinne, Nancy, and Michelle. I was in love with the community and mission. And my pink Fighting Pretty boxing gloves guided me through some of my toughest days. I knew this was the organization I wanted to lend my voice to.
I can add a new label to my list, and one that I’m very proud to hold: Fighting Pretty blogger.
My story of breast cancer is not a fairy tale, and I don’t think anyone’s story is. I’m here to share the ugly truths of the before, during, and after of having cancer at a young age. I’m here to talk about going on Bumble dates while you have chemo fuzz. I’m here to share how my relationship fell apart during the middle of chemo treatment. I’m here to tell you that losing your sex drive at 27 is embarrassing and sad and confusing. I’m here to talk about buying wigs on Amazon.
These truths are funny. These truths are ugly. These truths are a reality for many young women. My hope is that my truths soften the blow for another young woman out there. When she is diagnosed and falling down the rabbit hole of survivor stories, she finds the Fighting Pretty blog. And she is armed with the truths that only those of us in the cancer club can share with her.