When I tell people I've been diagnosed with breast cancer, the reaction is usually something like, "how awful! You're so young!" And on that point, I can totally agree. However, I am also incredibly, incredibly lucky. When it comes to getting breast cancer, I'm blessed to have been diagnosed when I did and how I did.
And throughout this experience, that's what I'm choosing to focus on.
Because of my family history, I pushed to get early screenings. I have good health insurance and a doctor, so I was able to ask for this. I have the money to pay for the MRI, diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsies. This is a privilege I will never, ever take for granted. And because of this privilege, my first breast MRI found my cancer when it's most likely in its beginning stages. Had I not had access to early screenings, this 5 inch area would have grown until I developed other symptoms: a lump, a dimple, who knows. It could have taken years, and by then, it might have been too late.
Yes, I am 34. But because I am 34, I still have my parents. My mom will use her nursing background to handle all my post-surgery "gross stuff." (Thanks Mom.) Both my parents have and will be with me the entire time.
Because I am 34, I have an incredible partner. This time last year, I found one of the most amazing men I've ever met, and I am so thankful to have him by my side. What if I had a different partner, one who wasn't a total rock? I have never doubted his commitment and desire to support me, and for that I am so grateful. I don't have enough words for how grateful.
Because I am 34, I have an excellent job working for a company that has been supportive from Day 1. The day I was diagnosed, the CEO of Red Tricycle brought me a huge bag of food and flowers, and she has continued to support me and relieve my worries since. What if I'd been diagnosed while I was freelancing? Or if I worked for someone who cared less or was less kind? What if I had a new job, and I hadn't established myself as a loyal, hard worker?
Because I'm 34, I have a solid group of friends who I have become very close to. These friends have brought me joy when I was feeling down, made my daughter's birthday more special, made me dinner, snuck breakfast parfaits into my fridge, made phone calls to doctors on my behalf, and lent an ear any time I needed it. They are my tribe.
Because I am 34, I am healthy and will recover more easily than if I were older.
For the record, "a free boob job" or "perky boobs for the rest of my life" are not silver linings of this diagnosis. That's like saying a prothesis is a "perk" of having a leg amputated. I will never have sensation in my breasts again. A part of my body that used to be for my enjoyment and for nursing my children will soon serve the sole purpose of making my body look "normal" to others.
That is a major loss, not one of the perks. But because I am privileged, and because I was persistent, that is the price I will pay to live. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
The flowers in the featured photo were a gift from a family that cares a lot about Bear and gave us the most thoughtful gifts. They also run a really cool tour agency in San Francisco featuring vintage VW buses with eyelashes.