My 14 week old rescue dog from Arkansas had been with me for 3 weeks when he decided to start poking his muzzle into my left breast. After the third or fourth time, it hurt and I grabbed my breast. I immediately felt a large lump and knew it was bad. I had my first mammogram the next day, December 23, 2014, at 33 years old. My mammography was quiet and professional while I made awkward jokes, knowing in my gut I had cancer. I was quickly shuffled off for an MRI and when I arrived, the machine was down. I begged for a biopsy to confirm what I already knew. On January 2, 2015, I was diagnosed with Stage 2B triple negative breast cancer, a rare and difficult to treat form of the disease that disproportionately effects young women, African American women and women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
I immediately opted to have a bilateral mastectomy. My kids were just 5 and 3 at the time and the decision was easy. I had used my breasts to nourish my babies and if they were going to try and kill me, I would simply cut them off. In March I began eight rounds of dose dense chemotherapy followed by 33 radiation treatments. After I healed from the burns I underwent reconstructive surgery to try and feel normal again. Several months later my reconstruction failed and I was rushed to the hospital with a severe infection. I was immediately taken into surgery to have the left implant removed and spent several days in the hospital on IV antibiotics. Nine months later after insurance denials and a surgeon who just wouldn’t quit, I was finally able to have the other implant removed.
When I was finally declared No Evidence of Disease on August 7, 2015, I thought it would be one of the greatest days of my life. I rang a bell signaling the end of treatment, friends came to clap for me, they cried, my children came and ate cupcakes excitedly hoping their mom was back.
Unfortunately I was left feeling psychologically broken, powerless, and terrified that every day was my last.
Then I found powerlifting, quite by accident. I walked into a local gym and with the help of a coach, with my bald head and angry disposition, I squatted and deadlifted a lot of weight.
I’ve now been training and competing for two years under the direction of my mentor and friend, Devon Carroll. I hold several New England records for my squat and my anger has turned to joy. Cancer used to be the first thing I thought of when I woke up and the last thing I thought of when I fell asleep.
I am three years cancer free and I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. I’m incredibly lucky to have been given the perspective I have and to be surrounded by the best support system a girl could ask for.
Hair & Makeup by Max Charles Salon