You never expect it to happen to you.
You hear the stories, you hurt for those who receive the diagnosis, but it always seems as though it will never reach you.
Then, the symptoms start. You know your body. You know when something just isn’t feeling right.
I began testing in November, 2021. I found a lump on my right breast and in addition to some outside symptoms, it was enough to notify my primary care physician.
At the age of 38, breast cancer wasn’t the first thing on the radar, but after a stretch of ultrasounds, mammograms, and biopsies, I received a call on January 7, 2022 to tell me I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.
They say when you receive the news, you black out and that was exactly the case. My primary care physician sat on the phone with me to make sure I had a moment to process the whirlwind of emotions that followed.
I contacted my sister, who in turn, contacted the rest of my large extended family and we began to set a plan in motion. My treatment plan began February 8, including six rounds of a cocktail of chemotherapy and hormone blockers to counter my HER2 positivity.
As an established minor league baseball freelance writer, I made the decision to make my diagnosis public. Of course, everyone had their opinions about making my private public, but my goal for the journey was that if I could inspire even one woman in their own cancer journey or to get that mammogram they’ve been putting off, I considered that enough of a reason to release the announcement.
The response from the baseball community was nothing short of mind-blowing.
My friend’s Rob and Kenny designed and sold a t-shirt called, “Emily’s Fight Edition” to raise funds for my treatments and the shirt became the (at the time) highest selling item the website had ever sold.
I received care packages and well wishes from across the world and along with that, multiple additional fundraisers that allowed me to get through my entire treatment journey without paying a dime out of pocket.
I think you can do your best to prepare for the impact of chemotherapy, but I don’t think you ever truly know what to expect until you’re in it.
My faith and my army around me are truly the only things that gave me the strength to keep going.
I started losing my hair in March, 2022. My hair stylist in all of her angelic glory, closed down the salon, waited for me to come after work, poured me a glass of wine and shaved my head for me.
It’s gestures like that that stick with you forever. It was the perfect expression of support.
Due to cancer being discovered on both sides, I underwent a double mastectomy in July, 2022, where cancer was discovered in several lymph nodes. As my pathology report was reviewed, there was residual disease discovered in some of the remaining tissue and I was called in for a second surgery in August, 2022. On August 18, I received the call from my surgeon that my pathology report was completely clear. They had gotten the cancer.
Due to this discovery of the spreading to my lymph nodes, I received the recommendation for radiation. My 25 rounds of radiation stretched from October 12 to November 15, while still maintaining my protein blockers every three weeks.
I had my final round of hormone blockers on May 31, 2023, followed by my third and final surgery on June 28, 2023 to remove my tissue expanders and move to implants to complete my reconstruction.
I walked through 14 total rounds of two different types of chemo, 25 rounds of radiation, three surgeries and three trips to the emergency room.
You learn so much about yourself when you walk through the fire.
You learn it’s possible to speak life into those around you, even when you’re at your very lowest and you learn you are capable of so much more than you realize when you stand on your faith and lean on those around you.
If you’ve walked the journey, you know you’re not defined by cancer, but it can absolutely bond you with the most beautiful souls you’ll ever meet.
Nearly two years later, I am cancer-free and making it my mission to pass along the hope I discovered to anyone facing the same battle.
We’re all in this together.