This is the first time I actually open up about what I went through, ever since I completed my treatment I was always hesitant to speak about it or address what I went through. Not because I was ashamed or upset but because I felt like I needed to put it behind me. What I later discovered was that telling your story might empower other people going through the same thing, and after talking to several people and seeing how much they needed affirmation from similar experiences, I found that it is very important to speak out.
First let me start by a saying that really gets to me : “You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it” and this is exactly what got me to the point where I accepted my fate and actually tried to turn it into something positive.
Life is exactly that, it will throw unseen circumstances that are beyond your control, whether it is cancer or any negative experience, it is your strength and your resilience which will get you through it, and surely you will come out a stronger person.
My story begins on my balcony at 2 am, I was talking to my friend on my phone when my bra strap fell, I went in to adjust it when I felt a lump in my breast. I cannot explain it but in that moment I knew. Even though there was zero awareness at my end, never self checked, I was just 23 years old and it was a bit unheard of. I stood up and I told my sister I want to go to the hospital I think I have breast cancer, she laughed at me and she was like no way you are too young for that.
That night I went into bed and I couldn’t sleep, I spent my night diagnosing myself on google which they probably tell you not to, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. The next morning I called my doctor in AUBMC and we conducted an ultrasound, he told me you have a 5 cm lymphoma, let’s observe it for 3 months and see if it grows then we’ll remove it, I remember asking him:” Are you sure it is not breast cancer?” his reply was: “You are 23, the chances of that happening are 0.00776%, just forget about it”. Come to think of it according to his calculations I was one of the 0.00776%.
4 months later, I was going into the shower when I saw my breast triple in size, the nipple was inverted and turned brown, and i had bumps all over it. My heart sank, I was like this is it, I called my doctor again and went into his office, I saw the panic in his eyes, he took me all over the hospital conducting all sorts of tests for the next 2 days. I felt like a mouse being tested on. The next day, my mom comes into my room crying, she didn’t have to say a thing. The first thing I did was go out into the living room and lit up a cigarette which I know probably was the last thing I should do haha. All of my family and friends came in, but I was not present, I don’t remember what I was thinking or not thinking about, it was a blur like I lost my mental capabilities for a while. The doctor calls and informs us that I have stage 3b breast cancer and that the tumor is so big at 16 cm and that it’s growing rate was at 95% rate and that I needed to start chemo the next day. I didn’t even have time to digest the news, I was all of a sudden in a hospital room being injected. The first 2 weeks were a blur, I wouldn’t even be present, I couldn’t sleep because I was so scared about not waking up the next day.
I became so mad with life, demanding to get answers for why, why me, why this, why now?
That anger then grew into acceptance, I was like this is my life journey and if I am going to pass through it, I will carry myself with a smile on my face till the end. My negativity turned into positivity at a moment where I was sitting in bed one night, and reflected on my thoughts and discovered that these negative thoughts will only bring me down, exhaust my body, and possibly lead me to a depression. I needed strength, you never know how strong you are until that is your only choice.
Self pity is the enemy of any treatment. For me treatment was both on biological but also on a physiological level. You need to push yourself and de-victimize yourself in order to reach the strength your body needs. Don’t ask why but rather how, how am I going to pick myself up and fight, and how stronger and more beautiful you are going to be after this.
The moment I got my power back was actually when I shaved my head, and it is all thanks to Maria. I was so worried about that aspect, I mean as a woman of any age, that would be definitely be a worry, but when I saw how Maria presented herself on instagram, as a beautiful, confident, and inspirational woman. At the moment, I was like this is the strength I need, directly went to the hairdresser and shaved it all off without a blink of an eye.
From then, I grew confident in my baldness. While everyone around me was proposing wings, beanies, hats whatever it is. I was like baldness is what is actually empowering me, I would go anywhere and everywhere without a hat, even in the cold cold COLD winter nights. I couldn’t care less about what people thought, I wouldn’t even look left or right.
I would always get comments like “Wow, you have an amazing style” or “wow, you are so badass for shaving your head” not aware of the circumstance, since I always carried myself so confidently that a lot of people were unaware.
Then the next step was that I was going to continue my life normally, I mean why would that stop me from doing that? I went out everyday, saw my friends, went clubbing, studied and travelled touristically 3 times with the permission of my doctor. I didn’t really change anything about it. I smiled, I laughed, I fell in love with a wonderful man.
But what changed was a lot of the aspect of my personality, I grew as a person, cancer teaches you life lessons that you wouldn’t get anywhere. I cannot put it into words, but you see life in a different way in a positive way of course! My priorities, my goals all shifted to making my life the best it could be, and for me to be the best version of myself. I grew more empathetic, and worked on several projects in order to help other people. You really start seeing the world from a different perspective, and you zoom out of the bubble you lived in before.
I have to shoutout my family and friends because they played a huge role in this experience, their support and their love is what gave me hope.
I think it is very important to also educate families about cancer, since when a patient goes through it, the whole family does. And what I admire most about my family and friends is that they did not treat me much differently and victimizing me minus spoiling me (Guilty of exploiting that till the last dollar lol). Take advantage of the cancer card while you can!
My advice to anyone going through it, is to look for hope, look for the light at the end of the tunnel. This is what will keep you going, I am not going to say it is a walk in the park, there will be bad days, bad side effects, you just have to keep pushing yourself, and most importantly focus on your mental health, do things that make you happy. Most importantly try not to think of yourself as a victim because that will bring you down, think of yourself as a beautiful strong fighter who will get to the other side stronger than ever. Giving up is not an option, you have to fight with every single bone you have. Get up every morning, put your best smile on.
“With every broken bone, I swear I lived”