"I felt that being 'sick' didn't really fit with who I was, and I didn't want people to see me that way or feel bad for me. Just know that you're still you, no matter what."
Anna is 33 years old, living in Brooklyn, New York. She was diagnosed with Stage 1 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma on May 10, 2016.
To Anna: Girl! I am so impressed by your ability to put on a brave face. We met on set and filmed for 3 weeks straight and I would have never guessed that you were dealing with Ductal Carcinoma. Aside from the normal tired look we all had in our eyes from 10 hours of being on set, you were one of the most wacky and energetic, ha! I admire you for holding in what you were going through so as not to distract everyone on set, but I also wish I would have known so that I could be there to support you. What touches me most is that we were recently in the middle of collaborative talk and you told me that you were browsing my website and saw that I had started this campaign. You said you were interested in telling your story so that you could help others. You amaze me, Anna! ♥
Interview Date: 4/13/2017
How were you diagnosed? I was on vacation with my wife in Puerto Rico, and she noticed a pea-sized lump on the side of my right breast. I saw my doctor as soon as I got back to New York, and one ultrasound and biopsy later it was confirmed that I had breast cancer. Luckily, we caught it early and it had not spread to my lymph nodes.
Is there a family history of cancer? Yes
What were your initial thoughts and reaction when you were diagnosed? I was drinking a glass of red wine when my doctor called to give me the news, and I remember thinking, this is the best thing I have ever tasted in my life. It was like all my senses were immediately heightened because I was so incredibly aware in the present moment.
After being diagnosed, how have you changed your perspective on life? I try not to dwell on the past or worry about the future. Being fully alive in the present is the most incredible feeling. Life is short, and if we worry too much about what we could have done or what we should be doing, we tend to miss out on the little things. I also have made my happiness and well-being a priority. It's hard to love others if you don't love yourself!
What gives you strength and motivation? My family and my friends, absolutely. I am also really inspired by other cancer survivors and sufferers, no matter their age. I am motivated by strong women in politics, science, entertainment, etc. I am so inspired by the women in this country that are currently standing up for our fundamental rights.
Who is your support system and how have they supported you? I have a co-worker and friend who was also diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age (27). We trade chemo stories and gripe about medication side effects together. It has been helpful to have another person close to my age, that shares my experiences, to talk to.
What is your treatment process and what is your perspective on it? I had a lumpectomy in July 2016, 8 weeks of chemotherapy from Sept - Dec 2016, 5 weeks of radiation in February of this year, and I am taking a hormone therapy pill now for the next 10 years. I am so grateful for the incredible staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
What words do you have for ones afraid to get checked? Catching cancer in its early stage is like being given a second shot at life - DO IT. See your doctor regularly. I personally think that the recommended mammogram screening age should be lowered. Every doctor I've spoken with in New York City has said the rate of breast cancer in women under the age of 40 is rising exponentially.
What advice or message can you provide to those who have been diagnosed? Life is not fair. Cancer does not care who you are, period. Just know, if you're feeling alone, that there are always people who have been through the same thing who are willing to talk and be there for you if you need it. Also, a big issue I had was losing my sense of identity. I felt that being "sick" didn't really fit with who I was, and I didn't want people to see me that way or feel bad for me. Just know that you're still you, no matter what.
Is there anything else that you like to add? I'd like to use my experience to help others, so I welcome anyone going through this to contact me.
If you would like to reach out to Anna, contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.