Andrea Diagnosed at 41
It started the Friday of Labor Day weekend. Of course, holiday weekend right? I was 41. I went in for a mammogram feeling totally fine and came out with everything changed. This is the same story that roughly 300,000 women in the US alone will tell this year. I felt just fine when I discovered a pea sized lump in my right breast that turned out to be stage 4 Her2Neu+ breast cancer. I felt just fine when a big pink ribbon wearing elephant walked into the room with me.
The first thing I learned was how quickly a diagnosis like this sends you into a medical vortex. I went from being a multifaceted, busy woman, wife and mother of two, to a patient and medical junkie. If I wasn’t at a doctor’s office, I was on hold with a doctor’s office or on the computer researching the doctor’s office or treatments and side effects. Life became very small.
I always feel more comfortable when I have all the facts. So, when I got diagnosed I went into research overdrive. One of the first things I did was look for the perfect book to tell me how to deal with what was coming next. After all, I'm part of the “What to Expect When You're Expecting” generation. I assumed that book would be out there. I just couldn't find the one I wanted. A practical guide from a patient's point of view that would tell me what everything feel would like. How exactly would my hair fall out? Was there anything I could do to help get me through treatments? You know, a girlfriends guide to breast cancer. I just couldn't find what I needed. So I decided I had to write it myself.
I took a lousy experience and decided to dedicate my time and efforts to helping other women get through their diagnosis and treatment. “Bald is Better with Earrings” was the book I wrote and the beginning of my advocacy work on breast cancer. 7 years after diagnosis, with all of my hair back (though not exactly the same as it was before), I have more tools to help the women who came after me. In 2009, I was a scared but determined cancer patient. Now, I’m now an empty-nester, a published author and a motivational speaker. This is just to say that there’s hope out there, even though when that doctor comes in the room with the news, “It’s cancer” it seems like you’ll never get to the other side of things – I promise you will. You just need a little help along the way.
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