Meet Breast Cancer Grad, Jamie!
Cancer Grad is so excited to present this BRAND NEW Cancer Grad. Jamie's Yearbook Feature was originally meant to be a Student (and a kick butt one at that), but when we emailed her to let her know that she would be featured today, she told us that just the day before she had her reconstruction and port removal and now felt like a GRAD. Congrats!
Name: Jamie S.
Age at Enrollment: 31
Major: Stage 1 Triple Negative Breast Cancer
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? No symptoms. I was on a strict monitoring program because of my genetic mutation BUT that wasn’t how it ended up being caught- a nurse actually found the little lumpy during a routine annual exam.
Courses Completed: I had a double mastectomy in December and am currently getting A/C chemo. I never thought this is something that happen to me at this age, but this nasty blip in my life is close to being over.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them?Anticipation of the unknown is really hard. Not knowing how I would feel or look after the mastectomy and not knowing how I would feel through chemo were both fairly terrifying. After the fact, you look back and say “wow, I went through that and I handled it.”
Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? Yes, so many! I am a big planner and did a lot of research to help feel more in control of a situation that takes away a lot of control. A lot of my strength comes from the hope that I can help someone else someday. I am trying to document the tips that have been useful for me. Firstly, anyone with the BRCA mutation who is thinking about doing monitoring as opposed to preventive surgery should 100% purchase an AFLAC Cancer plan. It pays off. For anyone about to go through a major surgery or chemo, making a list of essential items you will need allows your loved ones to feel like they can be there for you in a practical way. I have a blank copy of mine in case anyone wants to replicate. There are also a lot of free services out there, I have a list of ones that have been helpful for me on a blog that I wrote. Also, so far, I have successfully kept enough of my hair with cold capping. I know it isn’t for everyone, but I am happy with my decision to go through with it. I have a lot of other “vanity” type types (eyebrow microblading, Latisse, etc)- there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to take care of your looks while being treated for cancer.
How did you find joy during this experience? I have found joy in being able to really feel how loved I am. In being honest and open and asking for humor in return, I was able to get the type of support I needed from family and friends. I have found joy in realizing I was strong enough to maintain a fair bit of normalcy. With planning, I was able to keep up with my social life. And with layers, makeup, and cold capping, I can blend right in with the normals and look un-cancery. Snapchatting scary appointments with fun emojis has also been a silly way to get through jitters.
Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what was it? I always had a feeling I was a tough cookie deep down, but I have had a great and healthy life- no broken bones, no hospital trips! I hoped I would handle pain and adversity with grace and I am happy and proud that that has been the case. I look back on the email updates I’ve sent to keep my loved ones updated and hopefully not too worried and I feel good about that way I have shared and the perspective and humor I have been able to maintain.
Check out Jamie online!
(I write about restaurants and my Chinatown food tours are hosted on that site. And while it isn’t a cancer blog, it’s my space, and I really wanted to include a post letting people know what was happening with my life in my own words and have a place to collect the tips I’ve been picking up as I learn.)