I'm April Stearns and I'm the editor and founder of WILDFIRE Magazine -- a reader-generated, bimonthly magazine for young women fighters & survivors of breast cancer. All stages. Zero ads.
I am now six years out from my breast cancer diagnosis, which occurred when I was 35. Over the years since that terrible day I have found the information and resources aimed at young breast cancer survivors to be lacking – yes, we all know about early detection and mammograms, but what about all the rest of it? What about the mental scars and physical side-effects? Rather than hearing from older women on issues related to lymphedema (though, honestly, I do want to talk about lymphedema, too), I want to hear from young survivors on issues related to this rich post-cancer-diagnosis life that are specific to being young -- dating, fertility, parenting, marriage, reconstructive surgery (or not), “scanxiety,” sexuality (and the pain associated with sex, right?), disease recurrence, etc.
And it turns out I'm not the only one feeling this way.
As I meet more and more young women survivors (unfortunately, we are a growing population) I hear again and again we are all hungry for not only information but also connection with women who can relate to what we are going through as young survivors.
WILDFIRE is my response to this need for real discussion on real topics. Each issue contains written and visual work from young women survivors just like you and me. Each issue is on a theme. The Complete Archives, including the current issue is here.
So, How Young is "Young"?
It's a good question. Some organizations define young as being diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 15 and 39 while others move the mark slightly to encompass ages 20 to 45. For WILDFIRE, "young" is more a state of mind than it is a firm age. Young refers to the season of life that we are currently in, or were in prior to our diagnosis. If you can relate to discussions of fertility, child-rearing, relationships, reconstructive surgery, early menopause, hair loss, etc. then WILDFIRE is your community. It's certainly for you if you are in your 20s and 30s. If you are in your 40s and don't find that the "older" breast cancer survivor community quite speaks to your experience -- maybe you were still considering having another child when you were diagnosed, for example -- then we welcome your voice and presence here.
How Can I Read The Magazine?
WILDFIRE is available via subscription.
Why Do I Need a Subscription to Read WILDFIRE?
It's true, there is a lot of free "information" available on the Internet. A Google search on the topic of breast cancer will turn up hundreds of thousands of hits from medical sites to blogs to marathons to pink spatulas. It can be overwhelming, and also hard to sort through the BS. We at WILDFIRE aren't interested in contributing to the noise. We are, instead, interested in getting straight to the truth: sharing deeply personal, 100% real, heart-felt stories and experiences that will inform and validate your own experience. In order to create a safe place where contributors can bare themselves this way (sometimes quite literally), it is necessary to put a lock on the door. Just as you would to protect any precious possession.
When I was thinking of a title for this magazine I kept coming back around to the concept of fire -- the fire of the cancer that roared through our bodies, as well as the fire that burns within us now as survivors. In nature, a wildfire is one of the most devastating natural forces out there. It burns hot and fast and leaves little behind but ash and char.
Or so it seems.
Very quickly after the fire passes through the forest life returns. Shrubs and weeds that clogged the forest floor have burned away, leaving space for new trees, grasses, and flowers to emerge and flourish in the sunlight that can now reach them. New habitats are created bringing new insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals.
I think of our bodies as being this new fire-clarified landscape. For some of us, cancer changed utterly everything. For others, cancer has brought greater clarity and purpose. And some of us are still searching for what life-after-cancer will look like.
Can I Contribute a Story I Wrote or a Photo I Took?
Yes! You can find more information on how to submit here.