Updated: Feb 7
Rebecca was diagnosed with breast cancer at 34. She is a high school mathematics teacher and lives in Chicago. She enjoys horseback riding, jigsaw puzzles, going to museums and making fun of cancer treatments.
Back when I was first diagnosed, I remember thinking: There are a lot of women my age growing things in their bodies. All those other parents seem genuinely happy. My parents didn’t seem as thrilled about my news.
I was diagnosed about a year ago. I remember my first meeting with the oncologist. He was like, “So you don’t drink much, you don’t smoke anything, you exercise. I’d say you’re pretty healthy.” I was like, “except the cancer.”
A few weeks in I was at a dinner party where no one knew I had cancer. Those were some good old days. A guy there mentioned that his doctor said he had to stay away from dairy and gluten. I said, "That sounds terrible." Then I remembered, I have cancer and still I think a life without carbs and milk sounds rough!
They said chemo was going to kill my eggs so I should do the fertility treatments and have them stored. You have to give your shots in your stomach or thigh. Let me tell you, I’ve spent years unhappy about my thunder thighs, well no more. My thighs have so much real-estate. I never had to give a shot in my stomach and I will never complain about my thighs again!
By the way, I remember when doing shots meant something much more fun (even the ones that burn).
I've also decided that fertility preservation is the ultimate in gender inequity. I mean, as a woman this took over a month of shots and pelvic exams. A guy just needs a jar and a few minutes.
Every time a doctor or nurse comes in the room they ask you for your name and birthday. I often say it’s my favorite quiz because I know the answers. Don’t ask my dad, he’d get a 50 percent on it.
Anyway, sometimes they almost ask you too often. I remember before we went in for the egg procedure, they asked my name so many times that I finally answered, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." I’m totally serious. It turns out the doctor was a huge fan of The Princess Bride and everyone laughed.
My job just started offering these wellness incentives last year. They give $100 for mammograms. Unfortunately, I can only collect on one mammogram a year. But let me tell you, if I earned $100 for every mammogram, cancer might start to pay off.
Cancer is costly. When people ask, “How are you feeling?” I like to answer with the truth: expensive.
People are pretty nice to you when they know you have cancer. But when I was in chemo and someone asked me to do something I didn’t care for, I’d say, “I don’t think I have enough white blood cells for that.”
In my life BC (that’s before cancer) I rarely climbed on a scale. Now I get weighed all the time. I’ve actually started to judge hospitals on how much they say I weigh. Northwestern’s scales are quite generous.
Some people have asked if being weighed so often makes me pay more attention to what I eat. The Costco bag of chocolate chips on my coffee table says otherwise. Why chocolate chips? Because I’m bad at grocery shopping and they don’t make crumbs.
I went to the radiation oncologist. First he tells me that since they cut the tumor out and did chemo, I’m probably cured, but we are going to do radiation anyway. Then he explains that my chances of lung cancer are going to go up as a result of radiation. Seriously, I’m cured, and now you’re going to try to give me another kind of cancer? And then he follows that up with, “Well, if you do get lung cancer in 10 years, we won’t necessarily know it’s because of this.” Really? I don’t smoke and I work out. Dude, if I get lung cancer in 10 years, I am totally blaming radiation.
I like to refer to radiation as my tanning bed. I think that’s quite accurate. My sister told her kids that at radiation a doctor shoots Aunt Becca’s boobie with lasers. They are young and think that is really cool. Basically I’m like an inverted fembot.
For some cancer taught them how important family and friends are and to cherish every day. You know what? Cancer taught me how to give myself my own haircut and how to give myself hormone shots. When people compliment my hair I just smile, run my fingers through my hair and say, “chemo.”
Some people say I’m a cancer fighter. But the reality is I’m literally NOT a cancer fighter. I mean, we all have cancer cells floating around our body and unlike most of you, my body didn’t fight them.
My body was, like, “Hey cancer, make yourself at home. Can I get you a cocktail?”
So now I’m on an estrogen blocker and is supposed to try to push my body into menopause.
Because if there’s anything you want to do twice, it’s definitely menopause.
However, the doctor did say that because I’m so young (I love hearing that btw) my body will
probably not actually reach menopause. It will be fighting. To this I want to say to my body, “Oh, sure, now you’re all defensive. I didn’t notice this protective instinct, this moxy, when you were GROWING A TUMOR!!!!!”