April 15, 2020 - I woke up in pain on my right hand side. It felt like I had been working out the day before and that was definitely not the case. I was in full lockdown due to the pandemic consuming too much fresh baked bread, both my waxing salons were shut down and my plans to travel with my new skincare line, Bryght, was a distant dream.
I was young, healthy and have never had issues with my health. I expected it to be a cyst or swollen gland. Knowing my body well is what I truly believe saved my life. I knew the lump in my right breast was foreign and didn't belong in my once smooth breast. I acted immediately and contacted my doctor who prescribed me antibiotics and everyone (including myself) couldn't imagine it could be breast cancer. "You're still so young," I would often hear as I had just turned 40.
Everything happened very quickly; from the mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy and then the dreaded results. It has now been 1 year since I found that lump; the lump that turned my world upside down completely.
After 20 weeks of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy surgery and 24 straight days of intense radiation, my treatment was finally over. I saw familiar pieces of my previous life, but nothing seemed to make sense anymore. My security, peace of mind and normalcy was gone. When I started chemotherapy I thought it was the hardest thing I was going to go through. When I had my surgery, I thought that would be the hardest part and when I started radiation I thought, "Oh this is the one that I won't be able to get through." Well I did, I got through all of it. Don't get me wrong, none of this was a cake walk, but the one thing I didn't actually realize was I was about to go through the hardest part.
The hardest part has been rebuilding my life, my body and my new mindset. After all, my treatment had ended and I was left with a feeling of "what now?" Every morning for 8 months my job was to get up each day and fight for my life. The days were filled with doctor appointments, pills, injections, blood work, needles, hot flashes and so much more. So, what now?
My mind and body were hit with the shock of emotional distress of what I had been through. Each night I lay in bed and feel my breasts and every little lump sends me down a rabbit hole of "is it back?" I have a hard time accepting that I can no longer do a level 5 on the stair climber for 20 min while holding a conversation and that my body feels worn down, beat and exhausted. My mind is still foggy from all the chemotherapy. Yes, chemo brain is a real thing.
It's hard to admit the darkness and loneliness that comes with being a cancer warrior. Even with the best support system at home and at work, it's still a lonely place. I am often told "you are so strong, you are so brave and positive, a true inspiration." Yes, I am all of those things, but let's be honest. I have lived hell on earth, I have fought a war and sometimes I don't want to be any of those things, because being those things are harder than you can even imagine.