Marisa's Breast Cancer Story

I was diagnosed with stage 2b triple negative breast cancer in November 2013 at the age of 28. I was 6 months engaged at the time, and cancer wasn't really on my radar. But, when I found a lump in my breast one night, I promptly got into a doctor, and was in a room being told I had cancer just 4 days later. 

Having cancer was probably the hardest thing I've been through to date. There's losing your hair, eyelashes and brows, having your breasts removed... effects on fertility, inability to breastfeed... etc. But the hardest part by far for me was the anxiety and fear that came with the diagnosis... worrying about leaving my family and friends behind at such a young age; fear and a sense of loss regarding all the things I might not get to do, like having a family; fear of declining before my own eyes, before those who love me; the PTSD and body hypervigilance that follows me to this day. 

But, I have had an amazing 4+ years since I finished treatment. Cancer allowed me to take more risks and seize the moment in the way that the very responsible, more measured pre-cancer me wouldn't have. I've traveled to 11 countries and all over the U.S.; I spent about 8 months in Hawaii; I've hiked a quarter of the Appalachian Trail; I've white water kayaked, I've sailed, I've hiked many mountains; I've done 4 sprint triathlons and a half marathon; I've started my own business; I'm in the process of creating a non-profit to raise money locally for breast cancer research; I've started a blog, mostly related to the cancer experience (allthesurvivorchicks.com); I'm trying to learn photography, and would love to do a series of portraits of survivors / do boudoir photography to make all sorts of women feel empowered and beautiful. I've laughed, I've cried, I've lived. 

My message to other women going through it is that it is possible to get to the other side of all this. I thank my lucky stars that I'm here, and don't have any divine reasons as to why. But, there can be a chapter beyond cancer defined by your strength, beauty, and passions. Much love to everyone down in it now.
 

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