Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be diagnosed with aggressive Stage 3 Beast Cancer? How about at age 23? To have those things that represent your womanhood stripped from you at such a young age? To be forever changed—scarred—by this nightmare? To never be able to live a day without wondering—will it come back?
I never wondered. But I sure lived it.
It was just a few months post-graduation with my Bachelor’s degree, and I was eagerly applying to PA school. I remember those days: Happiness. Traveling. Dreaming of my future with PA school, marriage, children. Blissful ignorance.
Then one day, it all started to crumble. My incredibly fast-growing lump was cancerous. It was talking hold of me and attempting to destruct every cell in my body. It was attacking my hopes and dreams and my future. So I had no choice.
Not let the fact that I was losing so much of myself along the way get to me.
Put up a wall as I was wheeled into my bilateral mastectomy so I wouldn’t question my decision.
Smile through every monthly injection that keeps me in menopause.
Sleep my way through 9 total months of chemotherapy.
Exist through the pain.
Exist. Not live—simply exist. That was my goal through treatment, and it wasn’t until just recently that I realized I hadn’t been fighting to live. I simply wanted to make it through the day to see the next without regarding the greater purpose of what I was experiencing. I began an exploration into what defined my purpose before cancer so that I could retrain my mind to again pursue that purpose post-cancer. Even mid-cancer.
PA School. It always came back to PA School. The motivation to practice medicine as a PA helped me though my toughest undergrad courses, kept me awake during many a night shift, and pushed me harder academically. So when I was diagnosed during my application process, I kept right on going with my interviews. I didn’t give into the anxiety and the emotional pain that comes with fighting for one’s life. I didn’t give into that voice in my head that over and over told me I wasn’t capable. I never gave up hope as I sat on the waiting list for month after month.
While I was preoccupied with fighting cancer, I kept returning to that dream of mine. The one that at one point was so close only to be stretched further and further out of reach. Yes, there are still moments where I revert to that mentality of simply existing. But I’m getting better with the mental retraining. I have been put through this nightmare to be able to serve a very specific population of patients—ones that feel as alone and confused as I did. Ones who are losing—physically and emotionally—parts of themselves at an awfully young age. Ones who need a compassionate, understanding hand to hold and ear to hear their cries.
Their pain is my pain.
I have been chosen to undergo this journey and to be able to serve those patients in the near future. For now, I have 2 ½ months of chemo left and 27 months of PA School ahead of me. Then I may allow my life to re-begin. A fresh start. With my dreams and aspirations running full-speed ahead with no road blocks. No stupid cancer to get in the way.
I refuse to let you take anything else from me.
About the author:
Annie is a young Stage 3 Breast Cancer fighter in Arizona who was recently accepted to PA school. She will attend as soon as her treatment is complete in 2018.