Cancer found me at 26. On that gloomy fall day in New Jersey, I got a phone call from my doctor asking me to go to his office. At that moment, I knew that things were about to change…but foolishly, I still hoped it was nothing.
The doctor announced me with a cold tone that my biopsy results came back positive and that I needed to have another procedure “to clean everything out”. Then I desperately searched for a hand, a warm hug and some comfort…and he was right there: Nicolas, my then boyfriend.
We drove back home and I don’t remember much…I was like a piece of matter, aimlessly floating in the universe. At the time, I had just finished my MBA and I was working in Health Benefits Insurance Sales (ironic, huh?). I was finally reunited with my boyfriend, who had moved to the US from France. We were living together in my apartment in New Jersey. I had a red Honda Civic that we were sharing it (but luckily Nicolas was commuting daily to NY, so I could use the car more than him :)) and life was simple and comfortable. My friends became his friends and he adjusted so well to living the “American Dream”, that I was chasing after since I was 18.
At 26, I was at a point in my life where I felt that things were falling into place: I had gotten a good education, I had found an amazing guy, I had a few great friends and although my family was far, I still felt them close. But that one day, at 26, everything crushed down in tiny little pieces and I was suddenly the subject of discussion on the table of oncologists at Sloan Kettering who were deciding on my rare case of soft tissue sarcoma.
How did I get there? It all started with a “bump” on my left thigh, that felt “weird”. I’ve had it for a few years when Nicolas insisted that I had it checked. During my annual physical checkup, I nonchalantly mentioned it and got sent to a surgeon to see “whether I should remove it or not”. I followed my physician’s advice and next thing you know, I was scheduled to have a “simple intervention” to remove it. The rest is history. The little “bump” was freaking cancer…
In the beginning, I cried hard on his strong shoulders. Then I felt guilty for being “sick”. Then I felt useless…and then I wanted everything to end… But after a while, I decided to not be affected, to continue to fight and to enjoy whatever I had left.
In a matter of a month, I packed all our clothes, left our apartment, sold everything out…and we moved to France. I could barely speak the language and all I had was my boyfriend, 2 suitcases and some boxes I shipped out before leaving… We lived with his parents for almost 10 months and I remember crying almost every night.
I had the second surgery in France. The doctor held my hand before I was put asleep and my boyfriend offered me flowers after the surgery. My family supported me in every way they could. It hurt… It hurt so bad and I can still feel the metal staple stitches bursting through my flesh.
Then came the emotion. The final diagnosis…the follow up…What was going to become of me?
And then, came the good news: I was clean. And I had to be careful to stay clean, to follow-up with a checkup every year…And because I was “free”, I decided to become a vegetarian as a way to proclaim my health, being cancer-free.
Nicolas and I got married shortly after my second surgery…and being together is my constant reminder that love is patient, love is kind…
If you read this until here, thank you for sticking through. And let me leave you with one thought: whatever you do in life, no matter how busy you are, ALWAYS find time to get yourself checked and take care of your health. Whether it’s the silliest growing mole on your skin, some sort of weird pain….or anything that bothers you – please have it investigated. And never underestimate your annual physical checkup. Have a healthy, happy life everybody!