I never thought I'd start a magazine. Of course, I never thought I'd have breast cancer or a Border Collie or a kid that can ride a unicycle. I also never thought I'd loose both my parents by the time I was 37. But sometimes life just happens. Scratch that. ALWAYS life JUST happens. What is that saying? Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans? Yep, something like that.
Something else that just happens: cancer. Every single day, new women are diagnosed with breast cancer or a gene mutation that puts them at risk of developing breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, some 70,000 men and women between the ages of 15 and 39 will develop cancer this year -- of those, breast cancer is the most common among women in this age group.
I personally found the diagnosis phase to be the scariest. Suddenly I was in the fast lane of a freeway of which I didn't even know I was merging. Doctors appointments, biopsies, scans, insurance forms all came flying at me at break-neck speed. I remember having four appointments in one day. My head was spinning. I was terrified.
And I felt utterly alone. I didn't know anyone else my age with breast cancer. All I knew for certain was that my grandmother had died of breast cancer and suddenly here I was with the same diagnosis.
I remember Googling and not finding much for young women. I would have really benefited from hearing a few stories about chemo and mastectomies written by someone in their 20s or 30s.
And so, as you read this, imagine the young woman out there getting this life-changing diagnosis today. What would you tell her? What do you wish you had known? If you were to do it all over again, what would you repeat and what would you change?
Your story is important.
Not only for others, but also for you. Research shows that cancer survivors who engage in the creative arts suffer less anxiety and depression.
April Johnson Stearns is the editor and founder of Wildfire Community, LLC, an online magazine for young breast cancer survivors. She was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer at 35 years old. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA with her family.