I was diagnosed on September 5th of 2011. The doctor entered the room and said “ Why are you pacing?” My answer “I’m afraid”. Him “You should be. You have breast cancer.” What followed, besides me finding another doctor, who could behave in a more humane fashion, was a Stage 2B diagnosis, two surgeries that removed the tumor and all of my lymph nodes on the right side, months of chemo and radiation. I came out the other side, bald, skinny, with a ton of side effects and a very “not” positive attitude about breast cancer.
I had a lot to say about the culture I found myself in and it’s over the top celebration of pink, teddy bears and ribbons. That wasn’t the breast cancer I had. I am an artist and I kept sketchbooks throughout my treatment in addition to writing daily about the experience. One thing led to another and I started to combine the images and the writing. I accidentally wrote a book. It was not your usual “this is so great” it was more of a reality based “this is what happened to me.” The book Not in the Pink went on to win several awards. I thought this is over. Behind me. Except it wasn’t.
In May of 2015 I was diagnosed again on the other side. I started to think about having a double mastectomy but seeing the reconstruction options I was reluctant. I was not excited by any of the multiple surgeries I would have to have to replace my breasts. Where was the amazing “free” boob job I was going to get??? For my Stage 1 diagnosis I chose to have another lumpectomy followed by radiation. Out the door I went confident that I was done. Who says I am not optimistic???
But what followed was 4 years of constant testing, scans, biopsies and every time I had another scare it was worse. I was diagnosed with PTSD. In July of 2019 I told my oncologist I wanted my breasts gone and I was not doing reconstruction. I had found great resources with groups on Facebook and online. These amazing women were telling their stories with truth and grace. Not the myth – but the reality.