Your life is about to turn upside down and inside out.
Fighting stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in your 20s isn’t something you could’ve ever seen coming. I know it’s terrifying and unfair, and it feels like you’re being asked to move a mountain, but you have no idea how strong and resilient you really are.
You will overcome so many fears and learn to embrace the uncertainty of the future. The weight of this experience will press you down into a diamond so strong that it can withstand almost anything. For as many things that cancer will take away from you, it will also give you so much in return.
The poet Rumi said it best when he wrote, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” You will learn to find that light.
In the beginning, you’ll feel like you’re drowning in appointments, treatment plans, prescriptions, and surgery dates. It’ll be overwhelming to grasp the path that is being laid before you. You’ll have so many questions about what the future will look like.
But you don’t need to have everything figured out right now. You just need to make it through one day at a time. Don’t concern yourself with what’s to come in a year, a month, or even a week. Focus on what you need to do today.
Slowly but surely, you’ll make it through to the other side. Take things one day at a time. It’s hard to imagine now, but so much love and beauty will be waiting for you in the days to come.
The silver lining of cancer is that it forces you to take a break from your normal life and make self-care your full-time job — second to being a patient, that is. This time is a gift, so use it wisely.
Find things that enrich your mind, body, and soul. Try counseling, meditation, yoga, time with friends and family, acupuncture, massage therapy, physiotherapy, Reiki, documentaries, books, podcasts, and so much more.
It’s easy to get swept up in all the “what ifs,” but worrying about the future — and Googling your diagnosis at 2 a.m. — won’t serve you. As difficult as it is, you’ll need to learn to live in the present moment as much as possible.
You don’t want to waste the present moment being stuck in the past or worrying about the future. Learn to savor the good moments and remember that the bad moments will eventually pass. It’s OK to have down days when all you can do is lay on the couch binge-watching Netflix. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Reach out, even though it may feel like no one in the world understands what you’re going through. I promise that’s not true. In-person and online support groups make all the difference, especially in the early days.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. The people who’ll understand what you’re going through the best are those who are going through some of the same experiences as you. The “cancer friends” you meet at different support groups will eventually become regular friends.
Vulnerability is our greatest strength. When you feel ready, share your story. So many amazing connections will come from blogging and sharing your journey on social media.
You’ll find thousands of women like you who know what it’s like to be in your shoes. They’ll share their knowledge and tips and cheer you on through all the ups and downs of cancer. Never underestimate the power of an online community.
Lastly, never lose hope. I know you don’t trust your own body right now and you feel like you only hear bad news after bad news. But it’s so important to believe in your body’s ability to heal.
Read books that talk about hopeful cases of people who have survived terminal diagnoses and beaten statistics. I recommend “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, “Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds” by Kelly A. Turner, PhD, and “Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing” by Anita Moorjani.
You have to trust and believe that you’ll live a long and full life like many other survivors before you. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and fight this thing with everything you’ve got. You owe it to yourself.
Although this life isn’t always easy, it’s beautiful and it’s yours. Live it to the fullest.
Sarah Blackmore is speech-language pathologist and blogger currently living in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was diagnosed with stage 4 oligometastatic breast cancer in July 2018 and has had no evidence of disease since January 2019. Follow her story over on her blog and Instagram to learn more about what it’s like to live with metastatic breast cancer in your 20s.