Cancer Is Such A Heavy Burden To Carry Alone
I found a large lump nursing my newborn son in the hospital. I was thirty-four years old with no family history of breast cancer, so I didn’t think anything of it and wasn’t concerned. However, six months later, I was asked to have four back-to-back “emergency biopsies” at my follow-up appointment, and was then diagnosed with stage II breast cancer two days later. I was shocked and felt like my world had come to a screeching halt. As a mom to a three-year-old and six-month-old, I only prayed that my babies didn’t have to grow up without a mother. I went through very aggressive surgeries and treatments, including double mastectomies and reconstruction surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone suppressant medication.
As challenging as the surgeries and treatments were, for me, the most significant pain and challenges were not being a mom to my children. They were so young and so dependent on me that not being able to hold or care for them physically was much more painful than any surgery or treatment I underwent.
At that time, I didn’t really know anyone who had battled breast cancer openly. I come from a Persian Jewish family, and in our community, most people don’t talk about illnesses openly- especially breast cancer. In fact, I was encouraged by certain family members to keep my diagnosis secret.
But I did the opposite; I spoke about my diagnosis openly. I shared my journey at a lecture at my daughter’s preschool with other young Sephardic moms to educate and de-stigmatize. I wrote about my journey on blogs to help other young moms prioritize themselves and their health. And by doing so, I connected with other Persian women who were battling this disease in private, secretly, with no one to talk to. In tears, I had one woman tell me that she didn’t want her in-laws to know about her diagnosis. Another woman confided in me about her diagnosis and said nobody knows, not even her breast friend. And I know there are countless others like them.
Cancer is such a personal battle, and everyone handles it differently. I don’t judge anyone who decides to battle this disease privately. But, Cancer is such a heavy burden to carry alone. I don’t know where I would have been if I had kept it a secret and didn’t have my support system.
I didn’t know about Sharsheret at the time. But I was lucky to have connected with another young mom who had undergone treatment the previous year. Seeing someone who had already been through this and was now on the other side, happy and smiling and enjoying life again, gave me hope as I went through treatment.
I am here today in hopes of doing the same thing for others. I feel blessed to be here sharing my story with you. My children are now 10 and 7 and know their mom’s story. They know my cancer journey has helped shape me into the woman I am today. I am a more present mother and wife. I have reprioritized my life because I now know how fragile and short life can be. My cancer journey gave me the courage to leave a career I had built for ten years in corporate consulting and follow my passion for interior design. My cancer journey gave me the courage to go back to school with two young children and start my interior design studio. My cancer journey gave me the courage to speak about a very taboo topic in my community.
This is why I am incredibly proud to be a Sharsheret Peer Supporter. I love everything that Sharsheret provides. I am impressed with how well my Sharsheret contacts in Los Angeles understand my Sephardic community and the challenges the cancer patients and survivors face in sharing their stories. They are always willing to speak to those who may want to remain anonymous and provide them with support and resources. I love that they allow people like me to share our stories and connect with others who may need to hear this right now at this moment in time.