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My First Day of Forever

by Falon StahleyPatient, Stage 2B Triple Negative Breast CancerApril 16, 2024View more posts from Falon Stahley

After weeks of anxiously waiting, it was finally here, my first day.

Not my first day of school.

Not my first day at a new job.

Not my first day moving into a new house.

This was my first day of chemotherapy.

As I sat down waiting for my name to be called I was frantically looking around the room. It looked like every other person in the waiting room was at least twice my age. I was clenching my husband’s hand and all I could think to myself was “I shouldn’t be here.”

Alone and loneliness are supposed to be the same thing, but they are not. Alone is walking into a room that’s empty. Loneliness is walking into a room full of people and feeling like you’re the only one there. No one to talk to. No one you can relate to. No one to be there for you. Feeling alone, no matter how many people are around.

This is what it feels like to have cancer in your thirties. The first few months I isolated myself even more on purpose. I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I am 29 years old, with no family history and a one-year-old son, and that I will have chemotherapy for a year with a double mastectomy, breast reconstruction, and possible radiation depending on how well the chemotherapy works. I was so terrified that I knew if I started talking to people it would only make it worse. I would hear about horror stories and terrible reactions to medications and everyone’s extended family members who all died from cancer.

This type of loneliness was watching everyone else’s life play out while yours is on pause. As if you are watching a movie of everyone else’s life, and you are stuck. Frozen in time. The more I talked to my friends the more I struggled. I wanted to feel “normal” and not talk about cancer all the time while also feeling like I couldn’t relate to anyone and no one understood me.

As soon as I started my new chemotherapy meds that were now once every three weeks instead of once a week, I was finally ready to connect. Finally ready to find my community. I stumbled across someone sharing their experience with breast cancer on Instagram and I just started sobbing. Finally, after months and months, I felt like I could relate to someone. That I wasn’t the only woman in the universe younger than 70 years old diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. After reading that story and feeling validated instead of terrified, I knew I was ready to find my community. As I connected with more amazing women in the cancer community, it was an incredible space to connect and to unload. So many times I felt myself holding back all my true thoughts and feelings to my friends because I already felt like such a burden, even though I was barely getting through my day—but I knew they wouldn’t understand anyway. In the cancer community, this doesn’t exist, because we all are dealing with the same things. There isn’t anything that’s “too heavy” because we have all been there. This community is so incredibly supportive and loving, even though what brings us all together is so devastating and difficult. I have never been a part of a community like this, and finding your “people” within your community who you connect with is such an important part of your cancer journey and healing. When people say “no one fights alone,” this is what they are talking about. We truly are the worst club, with the best members.

Photos by Chelsea Lauren Images

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