October 1st marked the start of breast cancer awareness month. A month full of pink ribbons and saving the tatas. It’s pretty, perhaps unifying, but it isn’t accurate.
I found my lumps on June 24th 2019 while breastfeeding Crosby. It was not October and I was not wearing pink. I figured they were breastfeeding related and almost didn’t get them checked out. I had had an exam 2 months prior and nothing was detected. It couldn’t be cancer. The diagnosis came two weeks later, Stage 3A, Grade 3, #triplenegativebreastcancer. The next 10.5 months were spent in active treatment. I was poisoned with AC/T+C chemotherapy 16 times, my breasts were removed and while my surgeon @drannepeled is incredible, reconstructed breasts are not the same or an “upgrade” to the real thing. I had 25 grueling days of radiation and a final surgery to remove the rest of my lady parts. I won’t even start to list the side effects or mental toll, lots of them ongoing. I didn’t save my tatas (quite the opposite, actually); I saved my life. I didn’t wear pink; I wore whatever I needed to be comfortable.
I’ve met countless, young, brave women who have trudged a similar path. Who didn’t think it could happen to them, until it did. Some of them, like me, are currently cancer free. Some of them didn’t have a complete response and are still in active treatment. Some of them have a different kind of breast cancer and will be in active / maintenance treatment for years. Some of them are no longer with us. All of us found our cancer “early”. All of us. I can’t even begin to imagine how this might look if I’d waited a few more weeks to get checked out. Stage 4 breast cancer has no cure.
I don’t write this to sound bitter or to scare anyone. I’m not bitter, I’m so happy and so grateful I have more time to live this life I love so much. I wrote this to remind you 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. I’m asking you to be aware, not just this month, but every month. And if this month sparks something in you, take action. Do a self exam. Schedule a mammogram. Donate to a foundation funding stage 4 breast cancer. I like @metavivor and @tnbcfoundation
You can find Jamie on Instagram at jamieeliz81 Read her full story.