I don’t know what it was about 28, but I had high expectations that THIS was going to be the year my life changed—and it did, but not in the way I imagined. Six months in, after I had blown out the candles on my cake, celebrated in Puerto Rico and attended my 10-year high school reunion— I received a phone call that changed everything.
A Defining Moment Doesn’t Define Me
“I’m sorry. It’s cancer.” Those four words turned my world upside down. Almost five years later, replaying the words in my head still gives me knots in my stomach and a lump in my throat. I often find myself reflecting on the call, the diagnosis and the ongoing journey.
I always find myself trying to find the balance between not letting breast cancer define me but knowing the diagnosis has undeniably been a defining moment in my life.
Breast cancer treatment was a whirlwind of a process. From December 2014-July 2015 I was in full battle mode. Mentally, physically and emotionally I was on a roller coaster filled with twists, turns and gut-wrenching drops. I underwent six rounds of chemotherapy followed by a bilateral mastectomy (a few days after my 29th birthday). After my final breast reconstruction surgery in July of 2015 I thought it was finally over. I thought I would be able to slam the door on that chapter of my life and never look back.
However, what I hadn’t considered was all the changes I had gone through and the process that follows, trying to adjust to a new normal, adjusting to looking in the mirror and seeing a very different young woman.
I found myself so caught up in the physical fight that I hadn’t prepared myself for the bigger mental and emotional battle that waited for me on the other side of that blue chemo recliner.
3 Tips for Riding the Cancer Roller Coaster
It’s a process, and I am learning every day how to embrace it and give myself a little grace. Here are “3 Rs” that have helped me navigate life after my diagnosis.
REDISCOVER—I recognize that I am not the same person I was before my diagnosis. It has been a process learning how to love myself all over again. Cancer gave me a new appreciation for the things I once took for granted. It has made me unapologetic when it comes to making myself a priority.
RELAX—One day at a time. I thought once I finished my final surgery, I was going to jump back into life as usual. I quickly learned that I was not ready. Cancer treatment takes a lot out of you and you must listen to your body and be patient with yourself.
REJOICE—I have made it a point to find joy in even the smallest things. Even on our worst days, we can always find something to celebrate. Being on the other side of cancer is always reason enough for me to smile.
Monisha Parker found herself on the receiving end of a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 28. Her diagnosis further ignited her passion for spreading awareness and offering support to others who have been affected by breast cancer. She authored a children’s book in 2018, which helps explains breast cancer to children. She currently resides in North Carolina with her husband and 3 children where she frequently shares her breast cancer journey at conferences and other community events. Follow her on her website at www.purposepaintedpink.com or on Instragram at @monishashante0503.