It wasn’t until the following afternoon that I remembered my mammogram. My mom texted me, asking if I’d received my results, and I honestly had been so caught up with my emotional breakthrough the night before that my own physical health was a nonissue. With complete nonchalance, I opened up my hospital patient portal at my desk while chatting with my coworkers. As I started reading the results, nausea spread through my veins: The word abnormal flashed across my screen along with a note about a mass on my left breast.
That night, unable to sleep, I stood, staring into the refrigerator, looking for water. With the cold air giving me goose bumps, I examined my left breast. It was the first time I felt the lump. My entire body shuddered, and I knew I could not undo that moment. I told my boyfriend David the next morning, and we looked at each other with tears and determination.
A week later my mom, David, and I went together for the follow-up mammogram and ultrasound. The radiologist brought me back and explained the process—mammogram first and an ultrasound if they confirmed the earlier test, which I knew they would. After both tests, the doctor confirmed there was a mass; a biopsy would be needed to determine whether it was malignant. She started talking about possible next steps and different breast cancer scenarios. I was expecting to have a mastectomy—I was prepared for that even before I found out about the lump—but this was the first time chemo came up. It struck me like a ton of bricks. Though the pathology on the biopsy wouldn’t come for another week, I instinctively knew at that moment: I had breast cancer.
On March 15 I was diagnosed with stage I triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of cancer that’s difficult to treat.
I kept my day-to-day going as normally as possible for the next couple weeks, but it was impossible to deny that my life was in the midst of a dramatic turn. My time was starting to fill up with doctor appointments and fertility consultations, since chemo could leave me infertile. I was being poked and prodded in every way imaginable and spending hours on the phone with scheduling offices and insurance representatives—an entirely different type of torture.
I was attending birthday parties and engagement parties, taking on work calls and meetings as if all was normal, but I was gasping for air. My close friends and family knew what was going on, but I was overwhelmed by the thought of sharing this news with so many others. I wanted to own the narrative. Looking like a victim was my biggest fear.
I thought of the Instagram I’d posted on the day of my screening, after my dad’s death. I realized that to own my narrative, I had to be vulnerable and open. I couldn’t hide from the pain and emotional trauma, but I could control how I experienced it. I believe vulnerability makes you stronger, and I was going to need strength to get through the series of hurdles ahead—IVF, a double mastectomy, more IVF, chemotherapy, and eventually, the aftermath. So I started a blog and an Instagram account called I Forgot I Have Cancer, where I have been documenting not only what’s happening but also the emotional roller coaster that it has caused, from being bald to being depressed, to potentially being infertile. The name is a reminder to live life to the fullest—enjoying the simple moments and not making cancer the center point of my life.