Everyone has moments burned into their memory. Sometimes it’s a shared event, like when you heard about the terrorist attacks of 9-11. Others are more personal. The first glimpse of your spouse at the end of the aisle. The first time you hold your child.
For me, my most recent of these moments came on July 5, 2012, in, of all places, the shower.
There I was, feeling dog tired after a good workout and thinking about my son’s upcoming 9th birthday party when I felt it. A lump in my left breast.
The first day, I kept it to myself. I didn’t want to panic my husband, so I did research and decided it could be a cyst. I told him that night and made an appointment with my doctor “just to be safe.” She also thought it could be a cyst, but she sent me for a mammogram “just in case.”
Fast forward another week, and I’m at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance thinking I’d be back to work in a half hour. But I had mammogram after mammogram. And once those were done, they wanted to do an ultrasound-guided biopsy.
Me: “But my doctor said if it’s a benign cyst, we’d likely just leave it alone.”
Radiologist: “We’re doing the biopsy to be sure, but what we are seeing indicates it is most likely malignant, and you will need surgery.”
That is the moment when I decided to lean in.
I had been blogging for a few years about being a slow, plus-size triathlete, but as a former journalist and current public relations professional, I know how hard it can be to get a first-person view of things like cancer. And I had already decided that I was going to kick its ass.
So I started a new blog, The Breast Cancer Ninja. I have spent the last year being as honest as I can about what my body, head and heart have been going through. I have a degree in broadcast journalism, but I never wanted to be on camera. I called former colleagues anyway and offered to be a part of whatever they needed for Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2012. I swallowed my discomfort and wore my headscarf for a live interview on the local news, talking about being a mom, wife and fulltime PR pro who happens to be fighting cancer.
On my blog, I’ve talked about everything from chemo to early menopause, and all of the milestones in between. And it’s been scary to share so much of myself, when I don’t feel like MY story is THAT special. But it’s also been hugely rewarding.
Friends I haven’t seen since high school knitted me hats. A former intern sent me shower art. Clients made me a ham. So even though I’m never sure that my story helps anyone but me, I continue to share it. I still feel naked, but I’ve received nothing but love in return.