health

'I'm 23 and breast-less. Here's a letter to the me who just found out she has cancer.'

Beautiful Sofi,

It’s Sofi here. Although we’re genetically the same person, we’re not EXACTLY the same person. You don’t really know who I am. But you will. I am the future you. I am the you who has conquered the big C, baby. I’m the new and improved, breast-less you.

I haven’t stopped crying and marveling at the year that was 2018. The year that challenged, was unkind and questioned everything we’ve ever known. I’m about to give you an insight into just how you can and will kick cancer’s arse, girlfriend. It’s a blessing in a hideous disguise, I promise you.

I know you’re scared, but I can reassure you you’re a bloody warrior and you will walk into 2019 with a whole new perspective and appreciation for life if you go into the next eight months with an open heart and open mind. Ah, I don’t even know where to begin but let’s do it.

The early months of 2018 were going really good, weren’t they? Things were great at home, you’d just gotten a promotion and signed a 12-month lease, you’re happy. You even had a great vodka/water and nightlife/stay-at-home balance… for a 23-year-old.

But today is the April 24, 2018, and you have been told by your now new doctor that you have Stage 3 invasive breast cancer. Wow.

Rachelle and Corinne inherited a gene mutation that increases their risk of developing breast cancer by 70 per cent. Here’s what they want you to know. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

Thinking back, I really can’t remember a lot about the day you’ve just had. I know Mum, Dad and Joe all came to the appointment. The appointment was some time mid-morning and your new breast care nurse was present. As the doctor read a whole bunch of mambo jumbo words from last weeks’ test results, everything and everyone around you sat there quietly. Not saying a word as they didn’t want to interrupt the doctor, anxiously anticipating every word that came out of her mouth.

She didn’t go on for too long before finally saying out loud the dreaded words. That the test results were positive and consistent with breast carcinoma, and that you in fact had Stage 3 invasive breast cancer. You have Stage 3 cancer. It was such a close call, but you caught it just in time.

ADVERTISEMENT

When she finally said it, you became numb. Your mind went into a frenzy but you remained silent. I distinctively remember that feeling. You didn’t cry when she told you. Instead, you just nodded and said “OK” in response to everything she was relaying to you. You didn’t want to say anything, and you tried to avoid eye contact with everyone else in the room because you knew exactly what that could have triggered. You were doing so great until the doctor paused and somebody in the room asked if you were OK…

You weren’t OK. We weren’t OK. F*ck.

I know you’re terrified and thinking how in the world are you going to cope with this monster card you’ve just been dealt. You haven’t cried too much yet, but you will. There will be plenty of tears in the months to come. You’ve already been booked in for your mastectomy next Monday (April 30, 2018) and have been given a brief run down of preventative treatment that will happen later on down the track. You’re going to change your mind a couple of times over the next couple of days and question whether or not surgery and preventative treatment is the right thing for you. There are other options, but this is the most suitable for you and your future.

ADVERTISEMENT

Stop Googling! Stop freaking yourself out about what’s next. Just slow down and take it one step at a time. Focus on what is right in front of you, you will have plenty of time to Google. Surgery is on Monday, just focus on that. You’re about to lose a boob – don’t mourn it, celebrate it! You love a good party. Throw a party to celebrate your right boob’s 23 years of life!

After your mastectomy, you will undergo another surgery to clear your lymph nodes out. The cancer did spread to them, but thankfully, there are no signs that it spread to anywhere else in your body. Recovery from the lymph node removal is pretty straight forward and easy. As I said, I wont go into too much detail, but following surgery, you will have two egg retrieval procedures, 16 rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation. It all sounds like a lot, and it is, but hang in there through it all. Be patient. This is all necessary for your future. For our future. You are doing everything you can so that afterwards, we can live a hopeful and meaningful life.

Shall we address the thing you’re most worried about, he physical features?

I’m just going to be blunt here. You’ll lose your hair 16 days after your first chemo session. You will be heartbroken and honestly, it breaks my heart right now thinking about it as I type. There is absolutely nothing I can say to prepare you for the emotions you are going to feel as chunks of your hair start to fall out. It is honestly the most gut wrenching feeling ever. You also lose your eye lashes and eye brows. You literally lose hair everywhere. But, you get a free Brazilian and armpit/leg shave for a solid five months or so (ah-mazing).

Losing your hair is going to be the hardest thing you go through in the next couple of months – emotionally, that is. Just take a deep breath when it begins. Remember, it is only temporary. Your hair grows back… you’ll kinda rock the bald look anyway.

ADVERTISEMENT

You’ll gain a bit of weight and puff up a bit in the face, too. Again, only temporary babe. Despite all of the physical features that you’ll ‘lose’, you will gain the confidence of a warrior and truly feel and believe that beauty radiates from within. You’re actually pretty wonderful on the inside. Sometimes, you won’t recognise the person you’ll see staring back at you in the mirror, but the you you’ve always known is still there…  only stronger and more wonderful than ever.

Throughout your treatment, you will be confused for a while and occasionally wonder, why you? Why it is you who has to deal with this nasty disease?

Find the courage to not dwell on that thought. Instead, think about just how lucky you are that the diagnosis is not any worse. You’re such an over thinker and negative thoughts tend to weigh you down easily. Don’t let the thoughts take over you, it’s too bloody draining. Focus on all the good in your life. Stay positive and count your blessings, you have so many of them! You have always believed that everything happens for a reason. Bit bloody wild to believe this has happened for a reason, hey? But I think I know what the reason is. I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.

You will kind of go through your own version of the seven stages of grief. The shock and denial lasts for a while. Try your best not to linger on the denial for too long. THIS SH*T IS REAL. IT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. The sooner you accept it, the sooner things become more clear and get better. You won’t spend a lot of time feeling pain or guilt, or even anger. You will for a little bit but it’s all apart of the process. The depression will come in small waves. I have probably said this so many times already (or will later on in this letter) but feel every little feeling there is to be felt. This is all apart of your ‘journey.’ You will soon start to rebuild, accept and feel hope, and when you do, all of the pain and anger will almost feel like it was worth it. You will love yourself for persisting and staying strong. STAY STRONG.

ADVERTISEMENT

You have been thrown so far deep into a world you would never think you would be a part of. That a lot of 23-year-old people would never think they’d be apart of. You are going to grow and learn so much in this new, big and ugly world, not only about yourself but also about the world around you, your body and the people in your life. This is a blessing on its own. Knowledge is power, and from being thrown into the world of IVF treatments, chemotherapy, surgery and all things cancer (all at the innocent age of 23), you have gained knowledge that you’d otherwise never have had the opportunity to learn. Listen, do you own research, start the conversation and ask questions. You’ll be able to share this information with a multitude of people and spread the word of body awareness and checking your boobies with your closest friends and family, and even strangers.

I know you don’t like people worrying about you, but let them worry. Don’t get annoyed, be gentle. Let them check up on you and send you constant messages of love and support. Let them buy you little gifts or cook you meals. People feel helpless at times and really don’t know how to treat somebody going through what you’re about to, especially the people in your life. This is new for everybody, so let them help you.

They will understand there will be bad days. This is hard for you all, but they will band together behind your back. Although you won’t always seek it, you will feel their love and support from afar. You’ll realise every single person that you choose to give your energy to in your life are equally willing to give it back tenfold. As you could already guess; Mum, Dad, Joe and Riley are your rocks. Your girlfriends are absolutely magical, let’s hold on to them, OK? And your family will have your back 100 per cent. Some truly beautiful new relationships and opportunities can grow and blossom from all of this, so don’t be afraid to say yes to new things.

ADVERTISEMENT

You are going to receive the support and kindness of hundreds, maybe even thousands of strangers. Over the internet and in person! You’ll touch the hearts of so many people, and even more beautifully, you’ll give them hope and inspire them. I know, right?! I’m just as in awe as you are.

Sally Obermeder shares her experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer after conceiving through IVF on this episode of No Filter below, post continues after audio.

I know I have bragged about just how loved you’re going to be, but don’t be mistaken – you will feel lonely and isolated at times because your loved ones truly won’t be able to understand exactly what you’re going through. Don’t make them feel guilty for not understanding. Seek the comfort from fellow ‘survivors’, even if they are strangers. There are plenty of people out there who understand what you’re going through and are willing to have a chat, lend an ear and give advice.

Having cancer doesn’t give you a free pass to hate the world and isolate yourself – there are plenty of people out there. There are going to be some things you miss out on, but people will make it known that you are missed. Some days, you will cry at the most random times, let it all out. There will be some days where you won’t be able to get out of bed, but it’ll pass. Use this time to binge watch every show you’ve been meaning to in your life on Netflix, guilt-free. There is nothing to worry about because you will never be truly alone – there are people who understand.

Finally, don’t let having cancer define you and make you bitter. Instead, allow yourself to blossom and better yourself. Speak out and speak up. Speaking about your pain and hard times will help you heal. Be grateful for your life and for the people in your life. Be grateful for EVERYTHING! Everything past, present and future. Being grateful will really help you stay in a positive mindset and honestly, so many wonderful things will present themselves to you.

You are so strong and so brave. I adore you and love you so much. Hang in there, you’ve got this, I promise you.

All my love, light and encouragement,

Sofi x

Sofi Leota is an ambassador for Biologi. On IWD, 100 per cent of Biologi profits plus any donations to be given to the Breast Cancer Network Australia. Head to www.biologi.com.au.

This article was originally published on Sofi’s blog 23 & Breastless, and was republished by Mamamia with full permission.

00:00 / ???