I had a dream of owning my own blow dry bar (Hair Salon). I had worked at a previous salon styling all types of hair and really perfected my craft. In 2013 my husband and I decided it was time to go for my dream! We designed the salon, came up with a name & logo, picked out all the tile and paint, and called our baby, “Shine”. Things were all coming together and we both were very excited for what our future had in store. I had never run my own business before, but I was eager to learn and ready for all the challenges I would face, but the challenge that I was about to face was more than I ever thought possible.
My husband Brian and I were laying on our couch one evening. Just a regular night, watching an episode of Big Bang Theory, and I felt something…. a lump in my right breast. I had noticed this lump before but dismissed it as simply hormones or effects of my monthly cycle, but this time it was significantly larger and was rough and lumpy in texture. From there we began to do research on breast cancer and proceeded to make an appointment for a mammogram. Three months after my dream salon, Shine, opened I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. This life changing news was given to me on February 13, 2014, the day before Valentine’s Day, at the age of 29 years old.
After I was diagnosed, Brian and I just wanted to get on the path to beating it right away. We scheduled to have my port installed and then I immediately started 8 chemotherapy treatments ranging from 3-5 hours per treatment. It didn’t take long for the side effects of the treatment to take place. I lost my hair, I had nausea, fatigue, and I struggled to keep things going in a positive direction with the salon. The unpleasantness of chemo was soon followed by a double mastectomy. Two months later I started 6 weeks of continuous radiation completing an emotional and strenuous 9 month process.
Throughout the entire process I tried to work at the salon. Working provided me with a peace of mind and purpose. The salon was my temporary escape from the reality of my life. On two separate occasions, I had employees either quit or not show up for work while I was in the middle of a chemo treatments and clients on the books. It was a constant struggle to keep employees. We didn’t have the time or money for marketing as all of our energies went towards my treatments, doctor visits, check up’s, and recovery. Breast cancer put a heavy strain on our marriage as we both were unknowingly fighting our own battles and dealing with our emotions in completely different ways. I made terrible decisions, I had late evenings out at the bars, drinking too much, smoked cigarettes, and doing anything I could to avoid the reality of what I was going through. Even though I had support around me, I felt alone and felt judgment from others. Everyone had an opinion on what “I should be doing and how I should be doing it”. That made me angry and caused me to rebel even more. Looking back I feel a lot of guilt for hurting people that loved me. I lost friends and even clients I regularly saw due to my actions. It was simply too hard for them to watch me lose myself and self-destruct.
Having cancer changes you. It changes your thought process. I am not proud of how I handled things, but I am only human and I am okay with the lessons I needed to learn. I still struggle with the changes in my body. I miss my breasts and I miss the confidence I once had. It is important to me to share my story. For those who struggle with the same issues, and those who are scared to talk about what they’re going through, and those of us who fear the judgement from others; we are not alone. I ask those who are survivors and those who are currently fighting this disease to speak up, hold your head high, and stand proud. It’s important for us to share our stories! It takes courage and strength battling this disease and together we are tuff enough to beat breast cancer.