On March 5th, 2016 -- my 39th birthday and my four-year cancerversary -- I launched Wildfire Magazine. I clicked 'publish' and sent the link to friends and family. Then I sat back to see what would happen. Would any get what I was trying to create? Would anyone care?
For several years I'd tried to return my life to "normal," to get back to what it was -- who I was -- before breast cancer. I worked all through chemo, radiation, and surgery, and afterward I redoubled my efforts, working harder than ever. I made up for lost time with my daughter, vowing cancer wouldn't leave any marks on our relationship. Ditto for my marriage. But as much as I tried to put breast cancer in my rear view mirror, the more it seemed to pop up: ongoing scans, friends with recurrences, early menopause, swim suits and bras that no longer fit, and more. As much as I tried to forget my cancer year, it just didn't seem possible.
And then it hit me: maybe it wasn't about getting back to normal. Maybe instead it was about redefining normal. I was changed from cancer. Maybe the trick to surviving was not to deny that but to embrace it.
One thing was for sure: I needed to find others like me (read: young women who had cancer way before the national average) to help me figure out the lay of the land.
Fast forward to March 2016. The first issue of Wildfire was titled PHOENIX and it was very much my battle cry to cancer and the world at large: I'm still here! It felt good to stake my flag and proclaim that while cancer had changed me, it hadn't ruined me.
What started out for me as a quest to find myself and reach other young survivors and fighters -- to let them know they are not alone in their journey -- has quickly become something more than that. I've since come to realize how very, very important the telling of our stories is, too. It has been my pleasure to help others put paper and ink to the thoughts and feelings inside.
In our first year more than sixty young survivors and fighters have shared their cancer stories in the pages of this magazine. I will forever be grateful for their trusting me and my readers to their words.
Here is our very first "Best Of" anthology, ten of the very best writing of our first year. If you've read these essays before, read them again. I promise you'll find something new here, something that speaks to you now. And if you haven't read them, you're in for a treat!
And when you're ready to tell your story, I'll be here.
April Stearns, Founder & Editor, February 2017
Cover photo by @septemberwren.