Breast Cancer, a global pandemic, my wedding: these are all things that have happened in 2020. While this year has not been exactly like I had planned, life rarely unfolds the way any of us envision it. At age eleven I was diagnosed with scoliosis and would later be diagnosed with neurofibromatosis and paralyzed from the waist down for two years from back surgery. With years spent in-and-out of doctor’s offices, I learned early in life to become my own greatest advocate.
That is why when I felt a lump in my right breast, I knew that it was not something to ignore. While several doctors suggested that—because of my young age—the unusual bump I felt was simply a cyst, I insisted on getting a mammogram. After three months of waiting, doctors diagnosed me with breast cancer within one week of testing.
As you can imagine, a cancer diagnosis just months before I was due to tie the knot was not ideal. From my thinning hair and loss of eyebrows and eyelashes, and being perpetually tired, I visibly wore the treatment-related effects of cancer on my body. To own my narrative, I decided to shave my head. I refused to let cancer rob me of my joy. My then-fiancée and parents joined me in shaving their heads as well and we decided to make an evening out of it. The support of my family, as well as being told I looked great bald, was helpful.
Attending an online Look Good Feel Better® also helped me manage the appearance-related effects of cancer. Initially, it is very hard to come to terms with the physical changes that happen to you. Especially on special occasions, like my wedding. I realized I was not going to look the way I wanted to look on my wedding day. As women, there is a lot of pressure placed on your appearance, and we are also harder on ourselves than other people.
Attending a Look Good Feel Better ® workshop helped me hear about other people’s experiences and learn that other young women are going through the same thing as me. With the workshops, I got to learn different tips and tricks to help me with my makeup during my wedding day. I chose not to wear a wig for the big day, but I did learn how to put on concealer for my sensitive skin, so I looked less tired than I felt. My mom, who joined me for the workshop, learned how to tie head scarves as well!
This year has been difficult for me emotionally, from being away from my extended family and friends because of COVID-19 to spending most of my free time at doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy sessions. But one thing that has helped is having control over the way I look. You cannot see the cancer, but you can see the tired. Having control over my appearance and being able to hide the tired has helped me immensely this year.