I was diagnosed with IDC, triple positive breast cancer in December 2014, at the ripe old age of 37. I was healthy, active and happy. I was not old enough for a mammogram and breast cancer was the farthest thing from my mind. I came home from the gym on Thanksgiving Day 2014, and while peeling off my sports bra noticed a dent on the underside of my left breast. No pain, no lump (that I could feel), but a dent. That dent lingered on my mind all day. It was still there after all the Thanksgiving feasts, so I did the unimaginable…googled “indentation on breast”. One half of a second later and 328,000 results…cancer, cancer, cancer. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, my mind started racing, my heart was pounding, I couldn’t breathe.
I called my ob/gyn Monday and I was seen Tuesday afternoon. He ordered mammograms and ultrasounds and did his best to reassure me that cancer in someone so young was rare. It was a flurry of testing and 17 days later, the dreaded phone call. It was, in fact cancer. I spent 5 months enduring relentless chemotherapy and then began bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgeries. It was hard. It was dark. All of a sudden I was very sick and not so happy. Cancer at any age is a challenge. Cancer as a young woman has it’s own unique set of challenges. I worked throughout treatment, I needed a reason to get out of bed. I am a teacher, and my students were part of my inspiration. Somehow, I made it through. I wasn’t ready to tell my story early on. I shared with friends and family, but remained very private. It has taken about 18 months for me to come to terms with my cancer and be able to begin making good things happen. And I am realizing each day that there are good things that have happened as a result of having cancer too. I am now looking for more ways to speak, write, educate and become involved in the movement to end breast cancer. I am MORE THAN PINK, and I want all survivors to realize they are too! I live my life with “guide words” I have “hope, fate, gravity and love” tattooed on my foot. These are my baseline life guide words.
Hope – The eternal word for optimism Fate – chance happenings that shape us throughout life Gravity – the unexplainable force that draws you to people and places Love – the most fulfilling emotion in life. I have followed these guide words for years, long before cancer infiltrated my world. I have recently developed new guide words. These are my cancer and post-cancer guide words. I hope they can someday help guide another woman through the dark days of cancer treatments. Perseverance – Gut it out. Chemo isn’t the enemy. Surgery isn’t the enemy. Cancer is the enemy, and you are at war. Strength – Fight, even when you have nothing left in your tank. Dignity – Stand tall, square your shoulders and hold your head high. I am here. I am a survivor and I am more than pink.