I never felt my breasts defined me or who I was as a woman. Rather, my breasts were a part of me. Losing my breasts has been a brutal process, but having the opportunity to honor that part of me in advance has helped me to move forward.
Cancer isn't normally something to be thankful for, but ultimately through the experience I learned some timeless truths. I will not be the last young person to receive a cancer diagnosis, and to those of the future, I offer this.
Four weeks ago life was normal. My husband visited the doctor for his annual physical and went through the motions of carrying liquids in a cup down the hallway and having blood drawn while carrying on that awkward conversation that occurs when trying to ignore needles piercing your skin.
It's not easy for patients (or their loved ones) to cope with a diagnosis of cancer. But if that first reaction is tempered with the knowledge that you don't have to beat cancer in order to have a full life, then it becomes bad news that's somehow easier to take.
If it takes a village to raise a child, you might say it also takes one to care for the sick. Cancer is at once personal and communal. And yet, caring for the sick can feel like writing a travelogue about a country you've never visited. You can't know where you haven't been.
Hearing "you have cancer" can force you to confront your mortality, and fling you into a lava pit of terror stirred by superstition. Trauma can cause emotional regression -- rousing our reptilian brain.
Diseases and conditions that once proved quickly fatal no longer are. Instead, individuals and their families are increasingly likely to find themselves mired in a protracted process that only begins with a diagnosis.