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5 things I’ve learned fighting breast cancer in my 20s

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 21 years old. Like most 20-somethings, I was innocent, carefree and just trying to figure out my place in this world. Cancer was nowhere close to being on my radar.

But before you start throwing me a pity party, don’t. Being diagnosed with breast cancer at 21 hasn’t been the easiest of journeys, but it has become part of my story. See, when you face something as life-altering as cancer at this age, it changes you forever. It’s now part of who I am, part of what makes me me.

I never expected cancer to teach me so much about myself. These truths are lessons I never would have learned had cancer not touched my life.

I am beautiful.

I am now beautiful in a way that is unfamiliar to me. I never thought my body hair would be taken from me and I never thought the breasts that carried me would vanish. But this is the beauty I know now, and I’ve learned to embrace it. I am beautiful in the way I carry myself with strength and confidence. I am beautiful, just like the scars that guide me. They point up toward the sky and toward my heart, which is where the love for my body comes from.

Related: Beating breast cancer at age 30

I am stronger than I knew.

I’ve learned that my body can withstand a lot. I’m different than the average 22-year-old. My fellow 22-year-olds don’t have to worry about regular CT scans, blood work, oncology check-ups and hormonal therapies. But I do. Every day, I question if this demon we call “cancer” is still inside of me, but I know my body is working hard to attack it. Nobody actually knows what goes on internally in the human body, but I have gained so much scientific knowledge about how the body works and what it’s capable of.

I am actually funny.

When I was younger, I would always ask my parents if I was funny enough to become a comedian. Of course, as my parents, they supportively said “yes.” Fast forward to today, and now I know I’m funny enough to become a comedian.

I have a newfound appreciation for humor, thanks to cancer. If I make a joke, or any cancer patient makes a joke, it’s okay to laugh. In between all of the pain and sadness, humor is how you get by.

I have a newfound appreciation for humor, thanks to cancer. If I make a joke, or any cancer patient makes a joke, it’s okay to laugh. In between all of the pain and sadness, humor is how you get by. Could I talk down on myself and dwell on the unfairness of it all? Sure I could, and some days I did because that’s genuinely what I needed. Sometimes, I would have a pity party and invite everyone to listen, but eventually it gets old and you just want people to believe in you. Regardless of what I face, the jokes will never end because that’s who I am.

“Explore."

I am happy to be alive.

My body will never be the same, but that is not a bad thing. My body is a strong temple that refuses to fall. The human body can endure so much more than we give it credit for.

Mental illness and cancer do not mix well. Today, I am confident and happy, but a year ago, I was in the throes of depression and suicidal thoughts. Though you might not believe it looking at me now, you might believe me when I open up about it — which I always will. We can all learn from hearing each other’s struggles and victories.

But having survived the big kahuna that is cancer (I call it the “C” word), I know I can survive anything. The sun is still bright. The sky is still blue. It’s as if nothing really changes and yet everything does. It’s a different confidence that I carry now, and it’s a big thing for me to admit that I am truly excited to be alive. 

I have nothing to fear.

I used to be utterly terrified of scary movies and walking in dark places (which is still kind of a valid fear). But nothing is scarier than cancer, I’ll admit that much. No scary man in a mask is going to frighten me more than the thought of my life not being promised day to day. Now, I can confidently watch a horror movie and still go to bed at night. Sounds silly, right? But it’s just something I thought I would never overcome. That’s one little thing I can thank cancer for.

Related: How my cancer diagnosis taught me to live in the present

You really have to remind yourself of all your body has gone through to get you to where you are today. My body will never be the same, but that is not a bad thing. My body is a strong temple that refuses to fall. The human body can endure so much more than we give it credit for. I’m proud of mine for carrying me through this journey and teaching me so much about myself along the way.

This blog post was written by Mia Morin, a breast cancer survivor and mental health warrior. Subscribe to get stories like Mia’s delivered right to your inbox.

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5 things I’ve learned fighting breast cancer in my 20s