Lisa Diagnosed at 39
At 39 years old, after doing mammograms starting at 35 just because my insurance covered it, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was 2016; I was about to turn 40 in a few weeks. My kids were 6 and 9. I had just gotten my first full-time job in several years after working part time since 2009.
Before my diagnosis, I never appreciated all I had that was “normal”. In fact, I spent a lot of time in my own head, torturing myself with anxiety, fear and worry, always worry. I had been an executive, an entrepreneur, an educator, a spouse, daughter, sister, caregiver, writer, author, and more. But nothing prepared me for being a cancer patient. I now know that living in the moment is a gift - but I will not thank cancer for it. Cancer sucks and is terrible and should be eradicated so no one has to go through it. Instead, I have learned the hard way who truly is in my corner, who truly are my “tribe”. I learned who would drop me. I learned about being berated at work about why I was not working harder during chemotherapy and ultimately, I lost my job.
The most important thing that I have learned is that sharing my story is NOT something to be ashamed of and the fact I got sick is not something to hide. I blog as much as I want and share the real details of living with one boob, the fear of cancer coming back and killing me, being a mom, being unemployed, and all that. I share about what it was like/is like for my children who still worry about the big c word coming and stealing me away. I wrote a book for children about what happens when mom gets cancer. I started a non profit to help other people who dealt with the plot twist of breast cancer get free resume edits and interviewing help as my stint as an entrepreneur gave me 20+ years of resume and interview help experience. Through it all, I try and fail everyday to stay in the moment but I keep trying and I think that makes me tough. I am incredulous that I could theoretically die, that ⅓ of all breast cancer patients wind up stage 4 and no one knows why. I hope this feeling lasts because to worry about tomorrow is wasting today.
Are you a survivor, spouse, friend, or caretaker with a story to tell? We'd love to hear from you.