It was 2004, Dave and I had been happily married for four years, our beautiful daughter, Mackenzie, was born in April that year, and we purchased our first home. During my pregnancy I knew something was wrong. I had unexplained weight gain, swollen feet too big for my shoes, and headaches to the point of being bedridden for days at a time. Months after having Mackenzie and after numerous tests, the doctor finally diagnosed me with a condition called lupus, an autoimmune disease that attacks your organs. Much thought was put into our next steps in the process of healthcare and one option that came up was to have a breast reduction to reduce the weight on my joints and hopefully bring some relief from the chronic pain.
A little over a year after Mackenzie was born, at the age of twenty-seven, I had a consultation with a plastic surgeon. Meeting this doctor forever changed my life. After filling out the intake forms and having the standard breast exam, the doctor recommended I have a mammogram “to cover all our bases.” After the mammogram, I was instructed to sit in the waiting room while they checked the films. Ten to fifteen minutes later, the nurse came out and told me I was being sent for an ultrasound. During the ultrasound, my doctor, a man I had just met, told me there was cause for concern and that he strongly recommended a needle biopsy. All of this happened within two hours. I felt like a pincushion, the subject of a science experiment; little did I know this was just the beginning.
The diagnosis was Breast Cancer, and at the time, standard procedure was not what it is today. I was scheduled for a partial mastectomy before any gene testing was done. At twenty-seven, the doctors seemed more concerned about saving my breasts than about understanding the specific type of cancer that was invading them. After a horribly long surgery (thanks to my lupus complicating things), I began my life as a cancer fighter, healing from surgery and enduring my first round of chemotherapy. At the end of this round, I was in remission, for three months before finding out that I had BRCA1 positive, triple negative Breast Cancer. The cancer had returned and it was determined that between the chemo and the lupus, one of my kidneys had been so badly damaged that I was no longer a candidate for additional surgery. I would like to put this into perspective for you. In today’s world of cancer, the diagnosis of triple negative, BRCA1 positive Breast Cancer, would result in a full mastectomy and hysterectomy. Thirteen years ago I had been advised to have a partial mastectomy, and was now being told at the age of twenty-seven, that I would not survive additional surgery.
So, my life as a metastatic Breast Cancer warrior had been put into motion. It has been thirteen years since that initial diagnosis. Thirteen years of multiple oncologists, most of whom scratched their head at my case. Thirteen years of experimental chemotherapy, radiation, and alternative methods. Thirteen years of questioning the initial course of action decided on and taken by my initial team of doctors. Thirteen years of considering the what ifs. Thirteen years of disappointment and surprise in those around us and in how they have reacted to my living with cancer. Thirteen years of learning how to remain positive every day despite cancer doing its best to destroy me. Cancer is what I have, not who I am, and my family and I decided to live each day to the fullest, filling our our lives with love, laughter and honesty. In 2016, eleven years after my initial diagnosis, I created an online community dedicated to helping others live their most fabulous life despite any adversity they may be facing. Today, I have over 30k followers on social media, have been honored to speak at numerous forums, fundraisers and events, and have an award winning book (Fabulously Fighting) aimed at helping others truly live despite the adversity they are facing. Cancer sucks, but your life doesn’t have to. You can take metastatic Breast Cancer and turn it into the fuel for your fire. You can choose to live each day to the fullest and help others to do the same. Cancer does not define us. We are all warriors and I will continue to Fabulously Fight in the face of adversity.
Written by Fabianna Marie, Tigerlily Angel Advocate
Fabianna Marie has taken her thirteen year fight with cancer and turned it into an opportunity to help others overcome adversity and live their most fabulous life. Established in 2015, Fabulously Fighting LLC, has provided daily inspiration and education on a variety of topics related to health and wellness via the website and social media. It has served as a platform for others to share their stories, helped to raise funds for families affected by Breast Cancer, and ultimately led to the 2016 release of the award winning book, Fabulously Fighting: Living with cancer through love, laughter and honesty. In 2017, Fabianna Marie established Born of Fire Publishing, LLC, the sister company to Fabulously Fighting. Born of Fire Publishing is dedicated to helping passionate people make a positive impact in the lives of others by sharing their story.
Fabianna Marie is an award winning photographer and free lance writer with pieces published in national publications such as Women’s Day, Raw Food Magazine and Vegetarian Times. Fabianna was the key note speaker at the 2016 Oncology Medical Convention in Las Vegas, NV. She was named the National Association of Professional Women’s (NAPW) Woman of the Year 2017 and International (NAPW Woman of the Year 2018. Fabianna was a featured survivor in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer’s national advertising campaign. She has an established social media presence with over 30k followers. In April of 2017, Fabianna was crowned Miss Pink 2017, where women compete for a cause and fight for a cure. She recently joined the Women’s Choice Awards Blogger Board, helping to empower women to make smart choices. Fabianna resides in Southern NH with her husband Dave, tutu wearing teenage daughter Mackenzie and Prince the wonder dog.