My Mother died of breast cancer in 1998, after a brave, 14-year battle, at age 55. As much as I still miss her every day, the silver lining is that she became my guardian angel (if you will) in many ways, but specifically in that high-risk specialists began screening me for breast cancer through bi-yearly mammograms, sonograms, and MRIs at age 31 because my Mother was first diagnosed at age 41. Therefore, my breast cancer was caught early, before it spread. A 1.1 centimeter tumor was found on my MRI, and I was diagnosed with stage one invasive breast cancer in 2009, at age 34.
I was diagnosed at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital but treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. I had a lumpectomy, several months of fertility treatments followed by an egg retrieval procedure, eight rounds of CMF chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, and several reconstructive surgeries over the course of four years.
Shortly after I was diagnosed I began attending support group meetings for young women with breast cancer at SHARE. These meetings and the women I met through them were extraordinarily helpful. They allayed my fears, gave me tips on how to cope, encouraged me, and understood my experiences in a way that others couldn't. It was so wonderful to sit in a room full of breast cancer warriors; it gave me hope and made me feel less alone.
A few years later, the facilitator for SHARE's Young Women With Breast Cancer Support Group decided to "retire" after eight years of service and I was asked to take her place. I was flattered to be asked and am honored to be able to spend time with these women warriors on a regular basis, and hopefully help them through their breast cancer journey.
Today, at age 38, the chart in my oncologist's office at Sloan-Kettering reads N.E.D., the three most beautiful letters in the English alphabet. N.E.D stands for No Evidence of Disease. Words cannot express how grateful I am for my health, and I look forward to the day when every cancer patient's chart contains those lovely letters. Or better yet, never has to experience cancer at all.