1. How did you learn that you have cancer? How did you come to terms with your diagnosis?
Twenty years ago, at 37 years old, I fought for my life against breast cancer.
I found a lump during a self-breast exam one night while watching a segment of the Oprah Winfrey Show about examining your breasts. I called my primary care physician’s office to tell them about the lump, but the nurse I spoke with said I was too young to have breast cancer, my insurance likely wouldn’t cover a mammogram and that the lump was probably caused by hormones.
She was wrong.
I quickly realized I needed to advocate for myself, so I went to my physician’s office and demanded to be seen. He obliged and wrote an order for a mammogram with an immediate read to follow. I didn’t stop there. I headed to my OBGYN’s office to have the lump checked.
My suspicions were confirmed by the next day’s mammogram results: breast cancer.
I had no roadmap. I’m the first in my family to have breast cancer. The internet of 2002 was nothing like it is today, so my understanding came from library books and printed information. My diagnosis was isolating. There were no young women support groups around at the time.
I felt scared. Uninformed. Pushed aside. Lost. I was devastated that I had to fight for my life, but I found courage I didn’t even know I had and pushed forward.
I refused to let death be my only option and instead became the advocate I needed. And as time went on, I was able to advocate for others, too.
2. What surprised you most about your experience with cancer?
3. What did you learn from this experience or what advice do you have that will be helpful for others faced with a similar journey?
First don’t be afraid to NOT have a mammogram. If you’re going through treatment, keep fighting for your survivorship. It’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do. I see you, and I support you.
And to my fellow survivors, keep your appointments. Listen to your body. Get up every day. Eat to live. Journal your good and bad days. Reach out to others who have been where you’re trying to go.
No one fights this alone.
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