There has been a lot of change in my life over the past five months. I’ve had the opportunity of a lifetime to kickstart my career transition into tech by joining GitHub as an apprentice. I have been facing my fears head on and putting my best energy out into the world. Things were good.
Five months ago, my first cousin was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. We have always been close, and I was sad to hear this news, especially because she desperately wants to be a mother, and this diagnosis throws a huge wrench in that plan. Having struggled with fertility issues myself, I understand that overwhelming feeling of wanting something so bad it hurts. It’s heartbreaking. Her diagnosis prompted my mom to have her own thyroid investigated as she felt something was off for months. Fast forward many biopsies later, she once again has cancer, this time in her thyroid and now a recurrence in her breast. Her prognosis is not clear. I can’t believe she has to deal with this yet again.
Last year I had genetic testing due to my mom’s early age at diagnosis. My results showed “a marker of unknown significance” on the STK11 gene. Going into testing, I had my mind made up: if the results were positive, I would take action. I was prepared to do whatever was necessary to make sure I stay healthy for my family. Then I found a lump. Cancer is a cruel joke. I promise you my body is alkaline. I don’t consume immense amounts of sugars. I use toxin free products. I am a vegetarian, health conscious, and active.
Lots of testing, an MRI, mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, and PET scan later confirms it: I have breast cancer. Just writing that is surreal. The C word is once again influencing my life. When I was a kid, it devastated my childhood as it took my mom's focus away from family to survival for six years. And now, cancer threatens to do the same to me. Well fuck that…I will not let this awful disease do the same to my kids.
So we are fighting! I’ve had a round of chemo, the first of eight. Later this year I will undergo a double mastectomy and radiation. This cancer will not kill me. I have so much to live for and so many people rooting for me.
Jokingly I told my husband, “we are on the up and up from here!” We had the worst possible news, so from now on everything will be good…it has to be. When faced with devastating news, you quickly figure out who matters in your life. I’ve heard from old friends and even made new ones. My husband’s company has been incredibly understanding, and he is working from home to support me. My old boss from GitHub (one of the kindest humans I’ve ever met) started a Go Fund Me campaign to help, and I will forever be grateful to my GitHub family for keeping me in their hearts. Their generosity touched me so deeply, and it means a lot to know so many people honestly give a shit about what happens to me. It helps me to continue to fight, to focus on beating this, and I will use my voice to raise awareness for research and support.
Now comes the ask, I need you to do me a favor. Look down your shirt, do you see your boobs? Take a look at the chart below and examine them and if anything feels off, ask your doctor.
The C word is scary AF but never forget the power of intention is far greater than that of fear. And we all fully intend to stay alive around here!
This blog is an excerpt from a piece Andrea wrote for Medium in June 2017.
Andrea's October 2018 update:
These days I’m feeling a little like a puzzle slowly being put back together. 8 rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy, and 30 rounds of radiation later, Andrea 2.0 emerged. Looking back at the year, there was pain, tears, rawness. I was angry at the time I had to spend away from my kids, angry that I couldn’t pick up my youngest for a long time, and worried that my husband wouldn’t find me attractive. But then there was also happiness, joy to see my boys grow up, sisterhood with my new breasties, hope, and a burning desire to do the things I’ve always wanted to do.
Cancer has taught me a lot. I am so much more awake. I feel my husband’s love in a way that is hard to describe. I’ve rid myself of friendships that didn’t serve me. I unapologetically stand up for what I believe. I’ve made peace with the past and have a new level of love and admiration for my mother. She kicked thyroid cancer in the ass and bravely endured a clinical trial for a breast cancer recurrence.