Love and happiness are the two main things that have given me strength to battle breast cancer twice before the age of 29.
I was first diagnosed July 23rd, 2010, the day after my 24th birthday, with Stage 2A breast cancer. I remember being in complete shock when I was diagnosed. I have no family history of breast cancer, and I had just turned 24. Being so young, I remember questioning myself if I had the strength to go through chemo and beat cancer. Was I as strong as all the other women (and men) that had gone through this? Could I do this too? Yes, I could. I had too much life ahead of me to just give up. I am a strong woman and I wasn’t going to let cancer bring me down. I also knew I wasn't fighting this battle alone! Two months earlier I got engaged to my best friend and love of my life, Nathan! He is my rock and has stuck by my side through it all. I am known for always smiling, so with the love of my life by my side I put a smile on my face and began my fight!
Newly engaged and in our mid-twenties, we began fertility treatments. Having kids is something we really want, so this was very important to us. He dealt with all my mood swings from the hormones and gave me all my shots. That's true love! We were a team and this was for our future family! The fertility treatments blessed us with our little babysicles until the day comes that we can start our family!
After the fertility treatments, I went through 16 weeks of chemotherapy. Knowing we had a long road ahead of us, we decided to go to the courthouse a week after my first chemo and get married. His ring was engraved with "in sickness and in health." Through everything he has truly given a real meaning to those words.
Chemo was really hard on my body, but I didn't let that stop me from enjoying life and all that I had. I might’ve been bald, but I was beautiful. As I started to lose my memory from chemo, I didn’t lose my positive attitude. I didn’t lose my smile or my laughter. Cancer couldn’t take that from me. Happiness was a part of me and helped me through the struggles.
The night before my double mastectomy I was scared that I was going to be losing a part of myself. I was not concerned with the appearance, but with the realization that this cancer was physically going to be taking something away from me was so scary. Surgery went well and they were able to remove the entire tumor and found no evidence of the disease. I had done it! I had beat cancer!!
We decided we would still have a wedding with friends and family, but it would be AFTER I beat cancer and we would reaffirm our wedding vows to each other. After recovering from surgery and beating cancer our "wedding" day had finally arrived! The day where I finally got to walk down the aisle to Nathan. The man that had stood by my side through my battle against cancer. He was there to hold my hand during every needle poke, to wipe away all my tears, and to make me laugh when I was sad. He called me beautiful when I was bald, and loved me with all he had. With pink flowers, pink ribbons, and pink favors it was a beautiful day reaffirming our love and celebrating the battle we had just won! It was a perfect day.
Then on May 18th, 2015, almost 5 years after first being diagnosed, I was unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer recurrence that had now spread to my lymph nodes. This time around I also found out that I am HER2 positive. I was only 28, so hearing that my cancer had returned was heartbreaking. I had done everything I could have done so this would not happen. Nathan and I were just starting to move forward with our lives when we had to hit the brakes.
As my cancer is now more aggressive, my treatment plan is more aggressive. I will have chemo every week for a total of 19 weeks. Once I finish chemo, I will have surgery followed by radiation. Afraid and upset to have to go through this again, but I know I will beat cancer a second time because I am a fighter!! Like I have done since first being diagnosed, I put a smile on my face. If I was going to fight cancer again I was going to do it my way and have fun during the fight. Keeping my happiness and positive attitude through it all. This time I decided to color my hair pink before it started to fall out. Then I had a "hair today, gone tomorrow" party and shaved my head!! I had my closest friends and family there and I let everyone cut off a piece of hair. It was a day full of laughter and smiles as we cut fun hair styles before we shaved it... I rocked the Mohawk!
With a little over a month left of chemo treatments, am rocking my little bald head at every appointments. I have chemo every Tuesday, so Nathan and I have a Monday night pre-chemo dance party before. It's a way for us to just forget everything, just have fun, and just be happy. Attitude makes a huge difference and if you choose to be happy each day it makes things a little easier! I've also found a group of other young survivors and have the most amazing support team in the world!! They fill my days with love and happiness and are such a blessing.
Ever since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I have been very open about my battle. I hope that my story is able to inspire others that may be going through a difficult situation. I am always trying to raise awareness that breast cancer can happen to anyone regardless of their age, and also trying spread the word that early detection really saves lives! By performing self-breast exams, I was able to find my cancer both times earlier than had I waited to go to a doctor for an exam.
I have a long road ahead of me, but I am beyond blessed with all that I have in life. Cancer has a way of bringing people together and I'm so blessed to have met so many wonderful people through my battle. I am surrounded by so much love and happiness and it makes my battles against breast cancer easier. It gives me strength to keep fighting and pushing on. So every day I just wake up and am thankful for all that I have and for all those in my life. I am thankful for Nathan and the love he fills my world with. Every day I just wake up and smile! Every day I wake up loved and happy. :-)