In 2006, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35. I had found a lump and my doctor sent me for imaging and ultimately, a core needle biopsy. After being diagnosed, one of the first places I reached out to was the Breast Cancer Coalition. My first meeting at the BCCR was a BC 101 with the amazing Holly Anderson, the executive director of the BCCR and a breast cancer survivor. Not only does Holly meet with everyone that comes through the door of the BCCR, but she was there for me personally throughout my months of treatment including a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation.
Through the Coalition, I met other young survivors through the PALS program (Peer Advocates Lending Support). Words cannot describe how helpful and supportive it is talking to someone that you can relate to at a young age, who is facing a similar diagnosis and treatment.
In 2009, the Coalition offered me the opportunity to attend the national Young Survivor Conference in Atlanta with my friend Jen. I met Jen a year prior when I was matched as her “PAL”. We immediately connected and felt like we had been longtime friends. Sadly she passed away from cancer the following year. Although I only had a short time with her, I am so grateful to have known her and she will forever be in my heart.
In 2016, I was coming up on 10 years from diagnosis. I was looking forward to being that far out, thinking that if I made it that long I would be safe from cancer for life. But, there are no rules for cancer. I was diagnosed with a new cancer after my annual MRI detected a tiny, new spot that was biopsied. This time I didn’t have to do chemo and radiation, but I had to decide on surgical options.
Again, the Coalition was an invaluable resource, setting me up with other women to talk to who had the same surgery I was considering.
Facing all of the emotional and physical obstacles of cancer makes you feel like a warrior, but the true warriors are those who provided love and support and held me together as I recovered, especially my husband, Pete, my mom, Sandy, and my sisters, Suzanne and Laura.