This October of 2020 will mark two years from my MBC diagnosis, and seven years from an original DCIS diagnosis in 2013.
To learn in a single day, that you have both a miraculous honeymoon baby and “pre-cancer” simultaneously growing inside your 29 year old body is like being served the most nefarious slice of pie ever. You are seated at a table in a kitchen you have never been in before. You're not sure where the forks, napkins, or glasses for water are stored. There is an acute awareness that these tools are required to digest this pie but, where are they? How did you even get here? Who baked this damned dish anyhow?
My first diagnosis of DCIS was an on-guard, disconnected, and overall uneducated journey. My Mama senses came on hard and at a time that was less than desirable, I decided to focus on the health and development of my fetus more than my own health. The more I read the more I thought this "pre-cancer" could be a blip. I thought after a partial mastectomy, with what I understood as clear margins, I could make healthy choices and glide into motherhood sparing my child the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation; that I could focus on supporting his body with breast milk, love, and physical connection. I loved pregnancy, carried him 10 days past full term, and enjoyed an empowering home birth. Motherhood gave me the deepest connection to empowerment I had ever had.
Three years later after the swift and amazing home birth of my daughter, I had fallen into a bit more of a survival than health-focused life. Thirteen months after her birth, a string of enlarged lymph nodes on my neck let me know that my body was still eating that nefarious pie.
Empowerment became the main focus as I accepted a stage IV triple positive breast cancer diagnosis. From the beginning, I was of the mindset, accept the diagnosis not the prognosis. I was heartbroken to wean my sweet girl at such a young age in a rush of two weeks to begin chemotherapy. I faced it head on and determined with a new "hair is going to fall out anyway" hairdo.
Over these past two years, I've learned to strive for a balance between treatment, quality of life, motherhood with young children, the wife of a law school student as well as a new member of a community that was two and a half hours from my friends and family.
I have watched my health rise and fall, felt both certain and uncertain. A year into my journey I learned of the Young Women's Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation through Facebook. I had met no one of a similar age, diagnosis, or life situation until then, and if I were to choose one word that this connection reaffirmed for me it would be empowerment.
Seeing other young women just starting our "adult lives" at the time of a breast cancer diagnosis created a much-needed space for empathy, education, connection, and support. This strange kitchen was soon filled with other women pointing at drawers and cupboards while pouring nourishing cups of tea at a table that had been both lovingly set and angrily stabbed.
Through pathways of education, advice, empathy, and friendship as well as physical and financial support, the members of YWBCAF and the amazing Jennifer Kehm have played a crucial role in my journey. I still buck predictions of prognosis even as cancer has metastasized to my brain. I will always believe that a body that can create within it healthy babies while disease was running amok, can and will have the ability to restore balance and heal. In true wild woman form, I have claimed a seat and have begun to assist in setting the table and serving other members. I see that I have a purpose here and I hope to maintain myself in a fashion so that I can further support and serve at this table. A cancer journey can fill your cup with love and personal power. With many thanks to YWBCAF and my "breasties", cheers and may your cup always runneth over!