My name is Amber and I reside in the sunny state of Florida with my family. I am a momma to five beautiful children and I am also a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in June 2017 at age 36 with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and I had a secondary cancer (which was the lump that I felt) called medullary breast cancer. The type of cancer I have is Triple Negative and I am also BRCA1 positive. I have undergone three months of chemo treatment followed by a double mastectomy, six weeks of radiation, a full hysterectomy and breast reconstruction surgery.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. I remember the day that I was diagnosed so vividly. I had been on the phone with my husband and we were having a petty little argument. I heard a beep and then noticed that my doctor was calling. In the midst of our argument, I asked him to hold so I could see what the doctor wanted. What I didn’t know was that my life was about to change drastically. I answered the phone to hear my doctors familiar voice on the other end and that is when I heard the three dreaded little words “you have cancer.” I cannot for the life of me recall what my husband and I had been fussing about but I can recall exactly where I was standing and what my surroundings looked like and how everything just felt so surreal. In that moment my priorities completely shifted and arguing no longer seemed important.
It is crazy when I sit down and actually think about what I have gone through this past year. I know many people often think of the things that cancer takes away but what some fail to realize is that I gained much more than I lost. I gained self-awareness, I gained the ability to look at things from a deeper perspective, I gained confidence that I never knew I had. I also had the opportunity to rock a 2007 Brittney meltdown shaved head without judgement, I sported some pretty killer wigs while I was on chemo and then when my hair started growing back my kids swore that I looked like Eleven from Stranger Things (this made me a cool mom in their eyes, score!) .
During treatment I was determined not to let cancer take away my identity. I have always been silly and a bit quirky and I refused to lose my sense of humor through this journey.
I truly believe that laughter is medicine for the soul. I am known for being a bit of a goofball, so being bald gave me a whole new opportunity to be weird and embarrass my kids (all in good fun of course). I have sported the Joe Dirt look, Lady Gaga and many more thanks to my new wig collection.
One of my funniest memories was when all the kids were in the living room watching TV, we had been having a very stressful week and everyone was in a bad mood. I was not having it. I excused myself to the bathroom determined to lighten the mood in the house. I was still very bald at the time but my hair had a nice 5 o’clock shadow. I took my eyeliner pencil and drew on a very nice Backstreet Boy type of goatee. I busted out of my bedroom dancing to the Backstreet Boy’s song "Everybody.” Everyone busted out in the type of laughter that brings tears to your eyes (except my 4-year-old daughter, who was concerned about my new found facial hair and my hubby joked that when he suggested role-playing that the bearded look was not what he had in mind, lol).
This journey has drug me through the hills and the valleys and I still keep climbing right back up. I have met some amazing courageous women that I would not have known otherwise had it not been for the cancer diagnosis. I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I realized that beauty is what we make it and we are all truly beautiful in our own way. It is also important to not take things so seriously and to remember to laugh at yourself every now and then.
I try not to let cancer define who I am but it is always at the forefront of my mind. It is a huge life altering thing for someone to go through but we get to decide how we respond to our diagnosis. My oncologist told me “Amber, you can either choose to live with cancer or you can choose to die with cancer. The choice is yours.” What my doctor said really stuck with me and everyday I choose to LIVE. I graduated from college with high honors two weeks after having a full mastectomy, I travel with my children, we paint and play and don’t worry about messes -- the mess will still be there tomorrow. I live and I love as intentionally as I possibly can because I want to make every moment matter.