Please share your story: : I'm pretty guarded when it comes to intensely emotional situations, my instinct is always to protect other people and shield them from the emotional avalanche that occurs when the world turns your life upside down. I'm also a control freak and if I can talk myself out of truly feeling sad or broken, I will. The only way that I'm going to traverse this new life path is to acknowledge it, feel it, and feel it again, so here I am making myself vulnerable and trying not to be angry at myself for being vulnerable. I'm a champion at burying emotions into a deep dark tunnel, but this time is different. So here it is. On July 17, 2013 I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, on September 5, 2013 my cancer was upgraded to Stage 4 after test results confirmed that the breast cancer has traveled to my liver and bones. Was I scared? Yes, terrified really, this wasn't part of the plan. I was 31 and I had an 18-month-old son at home who needed his mommy. Who has time for cancer? Unfortunately, I had to make time for cancer, it found a home in my body, more recently in my brain as well, and I have to make sure it doesn't get too comfortable. I have to fight it for my son, for my husband, for my family, and for myself. I'm prepping for the battle ahead, trying to give myself the best chance to beat this. I owe it to myself. I keep thinking about how many things I still need to do and see, but mostly I think of my son. I keep having visions of his first day of kindergarten, his first bike ride, his first date, his college graduation, his wedding, and I need to make sure that I'm around to experience these things in real time and not just in my imagination.
How has your story shaped who you are today?: I always tell my students that there is a lesson in everything, everyday life teaches you something new and you have to decide how this information will help you grow. For me, this cancer journey has given me a greater appreciation for the circle of love that I have around me through my family, my friends, my coworkers, my students, my medical team, and even the random strangers that I have met as a result of it. You never know how your story will touch someone else so I have learned to be more open and honest about my experiences in hopes that it will help and encourage others.
What compelled you to share your story?: You don't often hear stories about women my age going through Stage IV cancer. Our journey is different and often times we feel like other breast cancer fighters don't quite understand the path that we have to follow. I will live with this cancer for the rest of my life, there will be no remission, that reality is a difficult one to face and I hope my story can provide support and encouragement to others who are dealing with the unique complications that a Stage IV diagnosis brings.
What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: You are alive, so LIVE. Stage IV is not a death sentence, you do not have an expiration date. Take everyday as it comes and fill it with the people and things that you love. If you take nothing else away from this experience, know and understand that each moment is a gift and you have the power to choose how to use it, not cancer.
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