Valerie Diagnosed at 27

"Allow yourself to feel the pain, the sadness, the uncertainty. But pick yourself up - however that looks for you."

There is never a good time for a stage two breast cancer diagnosis. But in January of 2018, at the age of 28, I learned that having recently moved across the country to a new place with few roots while planning a wedding back on the east coast was especially not a good time. I was scared, stressed, and filled with so much uncertainty. After quickly assembling a stellar team of doctors and confiding in an incredible, selfless support system (family, friends, colleagues, and strangers), the stress subsided but the uncertainty and scariness loomed. Even though the doctors assured me I’d “live through this” - which was music to my ears that I knew not everyone was lucky enough to hear - I was still faced with the concept of mortality for the first time in my life. The concept that my body could turn against me. It makes you want to hold your loved ones closer, tell them when you miss them, and relish in the days you wake up, feeling good and refreshed, smelling the crisp air. Suddenly things felt less scary, and I was starting to see the beauty that uncertainty can bring.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve undergone a lumpectomy (where the not-so-great news was received that the cancer made it into my lymph nodes), chemotherapy (which hosts a slew of side effects that combat with one another, at times feeling impossible to overcome), and I'm currently undergoing radiation (hello, sunburn). The best advice I received was from my breast surgeon who said: “It’s okay to feel down, just don’t stay there”. There are moments, days, weeks that are going to be really hard. Allow yourself to feel the pain, the sadness, the uncertainty. But pick yourself up - however that looks for you. Get extra rest, enjoy some sunshine, be with your loved ones, allow them to help you out (which can sometimes be the hardest). On days where doing anything feels burdensome, try pushing yourself to do something you love. I am so fortunate for my diagnosis. At times I hate being able to say that because there are so many others not so lucky. At each stage, I knew it could always be worse - and I tell myself this often. On days where you are at the very bottom, know there is a light at the end. If it’s hard to see or feel that light, don't be afraid to ask for help - be it from professionals, family, friends, colleagues, or strangers going through the same thing. No one is alone in their fight, and there is a support system waiting for you.

Are you a survivor, spouse, friend, or caretaker with a story to tell? We'd love to hear from you.

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