I always get nervous when someone asks me to share my story. It feels like it's too big and too small all at the same time. On the surface, my story is about how I had an aggressive cancer at 25 years old, but when you dig deep it's about so much more. It's about how I had to leave my comfort zone and the safe life that I had built for myself, and then almost lose my life, in order for me to really live.
At 25 years old after 4 months of a misdiagnosis and being told that the lump that I had found in my breast was "nothing," and that I needed to stop worrying and just come back in a year, I found out that I had an aggressive cancer that had already spread into my lymphnodes on my right side. I was told I was too young. I was told to just relax. Instead, I advocated and pushed until someone listened, and thank God I did. Because I was persistent because I refused to take no for an answer, because I decided I knew my body better than anyone else, and because I advocated loudly until someone answered, the cancer was found before it metastasized. But a few months later, that may not have been the case.
After 18 rounds of chemotherapy, a radical double mastectomy with complete lymphnode removal on my right side, nearly dying from a rare complication (TRALI), 3 days in the ICU, reconstruction surgeries, 5 total surgeries in a calendar year, losing my hair, losing my independence, and if we get really honest losing myself - I was finally declared cancer-free August 3, 2017.
Here's the thing about my story, I have a feeling it's a little bit your story too. My catalyst was cancer, but there will come a point in everyone's lives where they will face a crisis, and you'll have to decide what matters. When everything falls away and you don't know who you are any more you'll take a step back and take a look around at the pieces. Then something magical happens - you get to decide what stays and what goes. Hitting rock bottom is hard and it hurts like hell, but it makes such a strong foundation to rebuild upon. So don't be scared of hitting it, stand back up and rebuild. The pieces are there - it's your choice to pick up and build, or sit and stare. But I promise you, you have the strength to rebuild.
My story isn't just about cancer. It's about depression, PTSD, body dysmorphia, loss. But it's also about grace, faith, love, strength, and redemption. It's both beautiful and brutal. I have a feeling you can say the same thing about your life. But if you do want to take anything away from my story please let it be to advocate for yourself regardless of what others say or think - whether it be for your physical, mental, or spiritual health. You know you better than anyone else.
There's a saying, "I may have had cancer, but cancer never had me," and I live my life by that. Cancer can and will take a lot. It can take your hair, your eyebrows, your eyelashes (SOS come back please), your independence. It will take anything you let it have. But don't you ever let it have your smile, your dignity, or your soul. Don't let it have your story - your words. Instead, claim it back, and claim your life back by sharing it. Even when it's hard, stand up and share for those who can't. Stand up for those who feel alone. Stand up and tell your story because I promise you, it matters.
Instagram - @positivelykay