The Warriors What's your symbol?
- year of diagnosis: 2015
- survivor years: 1 years
- current city: Rutherford, NJ
- type of breast cancer: IDC, stage 3, BRCA-1 positive
- profession: Freelance media relations expert for arts organizations
- children: 2 (7 & 5)
- What is your idea of happiness? .
- Happiness is living without fear. Living in the moment. Really seeing and feeling the people you are with, tasting food, moving to music, singing along. I can find happiness in any activity when I am embracing the moment
- When and where were you happiest?
- I’ve always said I must have been a sea creature in a past life. I love the beach and ocean every season of the year—yes, even in the winter! I find calm listening to the waves, I love the feeling of sand beneath my feet, and I can spend hours walking the shore looking for sea glass. It’s even better when my kids come with me and we treasure hunt together!
- What is your biggest fear?
- Somewhere in the back of my mind is always the fear that the cancer will come back and be late stage and I will die. I don’t dwell much on whether that will be painful, or if I’ll waste away, but on my kids losing their mother. When I was first diagnosed, I remember just being grateful that it was me who was sick and not my kids. The thought of them struggling through the rest of their lives dealing with the death of their mother is horrible for me.
- Who are your heroes in real life?
- My husband Mike is a true hero. He makes everything possible for our family. He was always the one to shuttle the kids around, make dinner, do the laundry. The way he added to all he already does to take care of me during treatment was amazing. My needs, including getting rest and eating certain foods, were always met with no complaints. He got my best friends together so they could come and spend time with me, and didn’t let that make him feel displaced at all. And, he still tells me that he thinks I’m beautiful and that he desires me. Even when I was bald. Even now that I have no breasts. How amazing is that?
- What do you most value in your friends?
- I love how they showed up for me when I needed them. I’ve reflected on my experience and realized that I was one of the first of my friends to get married and one of the first to have children, and now I am the first to go through this. It’s obviously not a role anyone wants, but I think it has brought out how solid these friendships really are and how we will support each other as other difficulties arise. Each of my friends has a different skillset, so when they asked what they could do, I tried to give them things that made sense for them. Like, a friend who loves to knit made me comfy hats. A friend who is great with kids, stayed with me after surgery and kept my kids entertained. One, who is a natural foods foodie, sent me a care package with herbal teas and soy candles and an amazing cookbook. Another who is a goofball took me wig shopping and we tried on a bunch and laughed ourselves silly. Of course,
there was my friend who has a medical background and helped clear my drains and worked with the visiting nurse on my bandaging.
- Which talent would you most like to have?
- I’ve always wanted to be a good singer. I realize I’m not. But, I still love to sing—especially karaoke! Life is short—sing loud!
- What is your current state of mind?
- I no longer have a full-time job with benefits, so at times I feel stressed about money. But, by not commuting to and working in an office all day every day, I am able to attend my kids’ concerts and sporting events, etc. I feel so much more connected to my family and community. I feel so much love and support from friends near and far. I wake every day with a full heart. I know that it’s love and generosity that matters and not wealth or stuff. I started a nonprofit that sends care packages to mastectomy patients and it brings me so much joy! I am happier now than before I had cancer by tenfold because I’m much freer.
- What is your most treasured possession?
- I treasure my engagement ring, not just because it represents the love between me and my husband and our nearly 14 years of marriage, but also because it has a diamond that came from his beloved grandmother—that generational connection is very meaningful for me. Which is why I also love wearing my late father’s watch. I wear it almost everyday and feel like he is coming with me wherever I go.
- How do you most like spending your time?
- I love spending time at the beach, looking for sea glass. I love swimming with my kids. I love crafting (and drinking wine) with my friends—we’ve recently made tissue-paper flowers and t-shirt necklaces. I am an amateur mixologist and love making creative frozen concoctions. I love my work, which includes freelance projects for public radio, art galleries, luxury brands and my own nonprofit. I love laughing and having dinner with friends and all of our kids.
- What do you most dislike?
- I dislike judgment. I hear people commenting on other people’s appearance and it really rubs me the wrong way. I don’t look the way I used to, and I’d hate to think I’m being judged for that. I hate it when I feel the losses I’ve experienced recently: My breasts, my energy (due to treatment and hormone therapy), my dear father, my memory. I sometimes say I’m like a 65-year-old woman in the body of a 45-year-old. That’s hard.
- In your own words, what would you say to inspire or encourage someone facing breast cancer right now?
- There will be good days and bad days and you must allow yourself to have both. You are allowed to find laughter and light moments during this time—it’s not all gloom and doom. And, you are allowed to have bad days, even really bad days. You don’t have to hold that in or fight it, because you’re a real person and you have real feelings. It’s so hard to ask for help, but sometimes we all need to do that. So, make the call or text a friend or family member when you can’t get to the store, or pick up the kids from school—you’re not Superwoman and no one expects you to be. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak and shouldn’t be embarrassing. Where you are today is not where you will always be. I have survived things I never would have thought I could and so will you. We heal and we live and we defy odds every
day. I promise that you will come out the other side and when you do you’ll really know how strong you are—how strong you’ve always been.
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