The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

My AYA Experience

by Cindy BernardPatient, Breast CancerAugust 23, 2023View more posts from Cindy Bernard

Time. The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future is regarded as a whole. The issue with time is that it never stops. It keeps going. On December 21, 2021, I received life-changing news. At 1:32 PM, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and time moved even faster. I was on the brink of being a certified teacher at 29, but instead, I had to fight for my life. Each minute counts. In the blink of an eye, we go from living ordinary lives to being poked and prodded. One minute I was figuring out lesson plans, and the next, I had to decide whether to freeze my eggs. I wish people knew that time isn’t on our side for AYAs. Everything happens so quickly. I experienced three biopsies, sixteen rounds of chemotherapy, thirty-three rounds of radiation, a double mastectomy, a lymph node dissection, a laparoscopic salpingo-oophorectomy, physical therapy, and targeted therapy within a year. It has been a year since my diagnosis, and I am just now taking a breath.

About 87,050 cases among AYAs in 2022 in the US have been diagnosed with some form of cancer. There are 331.9 million people in the United States. Being part of the AYA community makes me feel minuscule. Spreading awareness has been a factor since my diagnosis. Listening to others has given me the strength to continue fighting. I’m not only fighting for myself, but I’m fighting alongside the AYA community. Without sharing our experiences, the unknown is even more terrifying. Cancer has pushed many people away. Throughout my cancer journey, I’ve connected with many people who have shared similar experiences. The unity surrounding the AYA community is like no other. You are not alone.

As an AYA, I want to tell a newly diagnosed patient that there is support. From support groups to financial assistance, people want to help. I struggle with asking for help, but many have extended a helping hand in my time of need, and I’ve learned to accept it. You don’t have to fight this battle alone. Please don’t fight this battle alone. During the pandemic, I was allowed one visitor for my first chemotherapy treatment. Having a friend made my experience ten times better than being alone for about eight months. There tends to be a disconnect when I receive treatment because of the commonality among older people. I constantly feel the guilt building up within me, knowing they are in as much pain as I am. I don’t wish cancer on anyone and wish someone would tell me that I didn’t need to fight this battle alone because I did.

Being part of the AYA community has allowed me to make new friends and overcome challenges. Unfortunately, this population exists. My perception has changed throughout this battle, and I try to cherish every moment. Breast cancer has thrown me many curveballs. The unknown always scares me. As a young adult with breast cancer, I’ve realized that real-life situations such as working towards buying a house are still possible. It will take more time than the average person, but it is possible. AYAs persevere when it comes to battling to live. Every AYA that I’ve met shares this mindset. Fighting back is ingrained in us.

It’s terrifying to know that I have breast cancer and have experienced so much in a short time. It is twice as hard now because I struggle with long-term side effects. I have adapted to situations and will continue to be patient with myself. Acceptance is a factor in my life that has been difficult for me to pursue because no one wants to be part of the AYA community. I do plan to continue to grow and share my insight with others in this community. Sharing with others has given me a sense of purpose and belonging. I didn’t choose to be where I am now, but I can choose what I do next.

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