Welcome to My Cancer Chic

Blog post 1- Isla Mujeres 1

It was a bittersweet birthday for me this year as I turned 28. Twenty-four hours before my birthday we closed on our new home, the home we planned to start our new family in this year. Three months ago, in May, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary and a month ago on the beach in Mexico with some of my closest girlfriends, I received my Breast Cancer diagnosis. When I got that dreaded call, my world changed forever. Devastation doesn’t begin to encompass everything I felt. I had tried to prepare for the worst while waiting for the biopsy results, but there is no way to emotionally prepare for a cancer diagnosis. That first day was spent in emotional turmoil. Away from my husband and my family, I felt scared and lost. I began to worry about dying, the finances of my treatment, and how this would impact our plans to have children. The superficial and cosmetic worries were soon to come as well. Would I lose my hair? How would I look? What if I had my breasts removed, how would I feel about the body I see in the mirror?

Being in a beautiful location with my loving friends for the next 4 days ended up being a blessing in disguise. Though the new diagnosis was always on my mind, I ended up enjoying my myself and relaxing in the sun, which I never thought would be possible. From the pictures, no one would have guessed I had just received that kind of news. I was able to keep my fear at bay by focusing on the fact that it was out of my control until I was back in the states and could meet with my doctors. I chose to focus on the beauty around me and the precious moments I was spending with my friends.

After returning from Mexico I began the process of doctor appointments, treatment discussions, and resource collection. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement.  In a matter of two weeks I learned more about breast cancer and cancer treatment than I ever wanted to know. No healthy, fit young woman should have to go through that experience. While my other friends posted about their summer vacations and trips to the pool, I debated whether to have one or both of my breasts removed. I had to starting thinking about hair loss from the chemo, wigs, surgery recovery plans, fatigue and whether I’d be able to work through my treatment. What would recovery look like, how would I tell people, and how would I stay strong.

The biggest aspect weighing on my mind was fertility. My husband and I began researching fertility preservation options immediately.  Many women’s reproductive ability is adversely affected by chemo treatment, so my doctors encouraged me to explore the available preservation options.  We went from planning to have a baby this year, to discussion never being able to have children of our own.  Egg harvesting, freezing embryos, adoption, and surrogacy, were now  all on the table and had to be considered. Unfortunately, none of these options are not covered by insurance, which just seems cruel. I am sure most women who have struggled with infertility can relate to that sense of helplessness knowing there are options available, but that the options are not affordable. The worst part about all of this is that we had to make a decision quickly. These are complex issues that couples spend years contemplating, and we had to decide in two weeks.  I dreamed of being a mother all of my life and my husband and I were excited and prepared to begin that next stage of our life together.  It broke my heart to realize that that dream would have to be put on hold for many years and that the route to achieve that dream would become costly and challenging.

Women who have cancer that is hormone positive (like I do), are also put on hormone blocking therapy after cancer treatment. This has been proven to increase survival rates, and decrease the risk of recurrance significantly. While on hormone blockers it is dangerous to try and get pregnant. Most of the studies for these drugs use a 5 year period as the benchmark for determining success. Deciding when to go off the hormone blockers to try and get pregnant anytime prior to the 5 year mark becomes a risk reward scenario. This will be difficult discussion we will have with my oncologist down the road. It is inspiring though to hear from so many young cancer survivors who have navigated this situation successfully and now have beautiful children.

It will be a long and unfamiliar road ahead and it is definitely not the road I saw myself walking. With the love and support of my amazing husband, my caring family and the sweetest friends anyone could ask for, I am finding the strength to face this challenge. I hope I will come  out of this experience a stronger woman than I ever knew possible.

So why this blog? For the past couple years, my friends have been encouraging me to start a fashion/beauty blog. I was hesitant to put my ideas out there and struggled to find my niche audience. As soon as I began to process my diagnosis, I decided that creating a blog would be the perfect way to share my journey and talk about my passion for all things beauty.  Writing is cathartic for me and  my hope is that by sharing my experience, I can bring  inspiration and hope to other young women facing a similar challenge. Having cancer at such a young age can be shocking and disorienting. I wasn’t able to find a lot of helpful blogs/website that provided the information I was looking for. My hope is that this blog will help other women like me navigate the physical, emotional and lifestyle changes that come with a cancer diagnosis.

I hope you’ll follow along with my journey.

Blog post Photo 1 - anniversary 1

Celebrating our 1 year wedding anniversary at the beach

Blog post 1 Anniversary 2

Enjoying a beautiful sunset during our anniversary getaway

Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Two days after receiving my diagnosis

Enjoying a beautiful vacation with my girlfriends after receiving my diagnosis

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15 comments

  1. Amanda BenDor says:

    Anna – I’m so inspired. You are such a strong, beautiful and remarkable woman. Thank you for sharing this journey with those of us who love you and for those strangers facing similar struggles. You are amazing!

    • Anna says:

      Thank you for following along. I love hearing feedback from the people who read the blog and all the support makes the journey a bit easier.

  2. Gretchen says:

    This blog is brand new, so it hasn’t had a chance to help any other young women yet.

    It will.

    Proud to know you, gorgeous.

  3. Mac says:

    I love you hunny. I was afraid to read your blog for a long time because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle reading your emotional pain and not being able to do a thing about the words already on the page. You’ve been so remarkable positive throughout the whole process and I was afraid I might find out that you’ve been putting on a brave front for my sake. I’m glad to see that you’re just as positive here as you are each morning and each night when we’re starting and ending our day.

    I love you so much and I’m so glad to be married to such a brave woman who can still maintain her sleepy sweet voice when I wake her up in the middle of the night.

  4. margarite crollman says:

    Anna,
    I have shared your blog, for I know your inspiring words will help others. How wonderfully you express all of this through words, not surprising being what a wonderful person and daughter (n law) that you are. I am so glad my son has brought you into this family, we have waited for you, and loved you from the day we (you know how big the Leary family is, that’s a whole lotta love for you) met you.
    Love to you kiddo,
    Momma Dukes

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