Melissa Diagnosed at 23

"I learned a new capacity for love from my friends and family. We are a stronger, braver, more life-loving bunch..."

I wanted to write this specifically to inspire young women who can't escape breast cancer. I was, and technically still am, a breast cancer survivor. Just after my 23rd birthday, in June of 2011, I was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. In After a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, I got busy living my life and enjoying my new health.

In 2013, my fiancé proposed to me just days before I underwent a double mastectomy. I had experienced a local recurrence, but after healing from surgery, I was thrilled to get on with my life and put cancer behind me indefinitely.

Life doesn't always turn out how we expect, however, and a week before my 28th birthday, I was told that not only had my cancer returned, but it was in my liver, lungs, chest cavity, and lymph nodes.

Currently, I'm on a chemotherapy regimen that's working, and hopefully, my health continues to improve. The journey through diagnosis and treatment isn't easy, whether you're stage 1 or 4. What I hope other women (and men) can gain from my story is that it gets better. The fear and the grief, the isolation and unending anxiety...all of it ebbs with time. And love. I learned a new capacity for love from my friends and family. We are a stronger, braver, more life-loving bunch, and while I blame a lot of my recent hardships on my cancer, I surprisingly owe a lot to it too.

To the young women reading this now (special metastatic shout out as well), you're not alone as you think you are. Reach out, keep moving forward, please know that you got this!

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