AnnMarie Gleason



I Can’t Believe My First Tattoo Will Be Nipples…

“Ah sure, it is nothing.” Those were the words playing over and over. A few times I found specks of blood in my sports bra but not cut. Then I discovered I could express blood from my nipple and found myself getting a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. Everything came back clear, nothing has changed since your last mammogram. So why was that voice in the back of my head telling me “no, do something, SAY SOMETHING!”

In 2018, I held my dad’s hand one last time as he took his last breath while we listened to “The Green Green Grass of Home”. He had fought for almost 3 years against pancreatic cancer and I was one of his care givers. So fast forward a year later and I’m sitting in my doctors office hesitant to make a “big deal” out of something when my results clearly showed no change since the previous year. So then, why was I bleeding?

When I look back now, I am dumbfounded at the fact that I followed through on it. I had a million things on my plate and would have gladly taken “no worries” as an answer and pushed aside any thought of it until my next annual exam. That’s how I rolled. But my dad must have been watching out for me above, because I kept pushing and asking until I found someone who listened. And I was incredibly lucky. What started as Stage 0 Grade 3 DCIS and undetectable to touch quickly morphed into a Stage 1A IDC ER/PR- HER2+ where I could see the mass pushing up against my nipple the day before my double mastectomy and only 6 weeks after my MRI biopsies.

I quickly jumped into chemo and Herceptin all during covid. It all felt incredulous, that I even had breast cancer let alone this was my 2nd cancer diagnosis! Just 3 years prior I had undergone a Total Thyroidectomy due to thyroid cancer. Through it all, I kept replaying advice I received from my doctor. She told me that I will make myself sicker with worrying about the “what if’s”. She told me to focus on what I know right now and stick to just that. Treat each step as it own separate events and only worry about the one right now. I can’t tell you how much that impacted me in a positive way. I made it a mission to let go of the what if’s and for every hard thing I had to do, I found a purpose to make it a happy memory. I colored my hair a neon pink and had all my friends take turns at the hair salon shaving it off. Each chemo, I had a friend pick me up and we spent hours disconnected from technology (well except for my port!) and we learned more about each other in those 5hrs than ever before. I created a journal and wrote down my favorite memories of that day with them and took a selfie with each one. I posted them on social media not to show a “positive side” to all of this, but to remind myself – I WAS ALIVE!

I’m 2 years out now, in remission, and about to leave on a solo trip to Jordan. The last few years were hard, not going to sugar coat it, but regardless of how many surgeries and treatments I had, I made it out to the other side. And when I look back this will have been just a blip on the timeline of my life journey.

We fight! We win! We THRIVE!