I had my ultrasound, mammogram, and biopsy all done of a Friday. We were told by the breast clinic staff to relax and enjoy our weekend, so we went to the pumpkin patch and surrounded ourselves with family in hopes to get our minds off of what was to come. That Monday morning, I received the call that would change my life forever. I was in the Giant Eagle parking lot when I answered the call. The voice on the other end said, “I have good news and bad news… the bad news is it is cancer, the good news is that we have many treatments with successful outcomes for this type of cancer”. It was as if my life was crumbling from under me. I just got engaged, we just purchased our first home. I graduated college, got a new “big girl job”. I was planning my dream wedding for the following year, WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE CANCER? I can’t have CANCER!
I truly don’t even recall the rest of that conversation. I immediately remember texting my now husband (yes I did it through a text) and all it said was “I have cancer”. I went home and he was waiting for me with his arms open wide which he continued to do through all our ups and downs in the years to come. I texted my family (yes more texts) because truthfully the words were too painful to get out. That was the start of my life long journey with breast cancer.
The next couple of months were the most trialing of all. My family with the help of the local nonprofit Jamies Dream Team came together and helped to make all my wedding dreams come true in only two weeks of planning before I was forced to start an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy. I underwent IVF for egg retrieval to preserve my fertility the day following our wedding, 12 rounds of chemotherapy (out of 16 due to severe allergic reactions of which I did not have a complete response to chemo), a double mastectomy with lymph node dissection due to 40% chance of recurrence and PALB2 gene mutation, 30 rounds of radiation therapy, years of hormone blocking treatments, and multiple breast reconstructions. The life I once dreamed of in an instant had changed… BUT that did NOT stop me from living my BEST life!
During the day, I am a pediatric Occupational Therapist in a school
for children with autism and multiple disabilities, and by night, I am an accomplished blogger, social media advocate, and youtube guru. With my strong presence on social media, I have had the opportunity to work with countless brands, attend multiple breast cancer conferences, shared my own story at speaking events, and participated as a young advocate for Living Beyond Breast Cancer as well as Lacuna Loft where I continually advocate for early detection and the ability to THRIVE despite a cancer diagnosis.
I initially documented my journey through my online blog www.shesparkleson.com as a way to let family and friends know what was going on with my treatments during a time when having the words “I have cancer” were too difficulty to explain. I began describing in detail the highs and lows of every step of my breast cancer journey including sharing tricks, tips, and pics which captivated an audience much larger than her family circle. I have fascinated my audience through my unique and explicit story-telling of my journey. My story has been shared across the world and broadcasted through social media outlets because of my openness to show my scars and encourage other women to be comfortable within their own skin despite life’s challenges.
In June 2017, my husband and I decided to put our greatest fears of my recurrence in the back of our minds as we refused to let cancer take anything else from our life’s dreams. I took a break from my hormone blocking medications as we waited for my body to hopefully react and give us life’s greatest gift, a sign of fertility. Exactly 6 months from going off all my medications, I got my first cycle a week before my last breast reconstruction. After a long month of healing and holidays, January came and I was heartbroken because I hadn’t gotten another cycle. I made an appointment with my reproductive specialist to run tests and come up with an alternative plan, and to our surprise… my missed cycle was because we had our little miracle baby on the way!
On September 15, 2018 our lives took the greatest turn as our miracle baby Kendra entered our lives. Named after my oncologist (Jane Raymond) who saved my life and encouraged and supported me to NEVER give up on my greatest dream of becoming a mom, Kendra is how I THRIVE while I SURVIVE!
Although my active treatments are in the past, cancer will forever be a part of my life. One week before Kendra was born, my mom received results of her annual mammogram indicating a “mass”. The overwhelming feeling of fear, anxiety, and heartbreak came crashing back into our lives. After further testing, she too has been diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer thanks to the PALB2 mutation. With a plan for a double mastectomy in the beginning of October and chemotherapy to follow, it is as if the nightmare we lived for the past 3 years, has returned...
Despite life’s twists and turns, I am finally transitioning into the next phase of my journey which includes bringing my mission to “Sparkle On” to life. Normally, people come up with little slogans when they’re diagnosed, and I really wanted my slogan to not just be personal to me, but for other girls to use it in my same situation”. To “Sparkle On” means that even in your most challenging days, the days where your bald, have dark circles, and skin hurts so badly you can hardly move, you will not feel pretty on the outside but you will always have that inner sparkle inside your heart that makes shine!" With a little bit of witty humor, openness, and of course sparkle... anyone can feel beautiful during a cancer journey. My greatest goal is to continue to advocate, share my story, encourage other women to share their story, and be the best mom I can be as I Thrive to Survive!