I have known that I was susceptible to cancer for about a decade – I have the BRCA gene and my mother had a double mastectomy. But a Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis just as you’re about to board a plane to Vegas? Yep, that happened to me. It could have been considered a precursor to bad luck. However, as I type these words some 14-months later, I can give an unequivocal reason as to why my TNBC diagnosis did not spell doom and gloom: I put myself first.
What exactly does it mean when I say that I put myself first? Does it mean that the world revolves around me and no one else? Does it mean that I turned into a diva, gleefully soaking in the sentiments and attention of everyone who loves me? It was neither. Instead, it means that I finally learned to give myself the time and space I needed to respond to an illness that threatened to rob me of my loved ones.
The world can teach you that cancer is an uncontrollable, deadly disease that puts you at its mercy. Life, on the other hand, teaches you to go for the gusto and do so of your own free will and awesomeness. When cancer decided to collide with my life, I am proud to say that I let life win. I became my own person so that I could persevere in a world of uncertainty.
I spaced out activities on my calendar to ensure I had time to incorporate exercise and other healthy habits that made me happy. I worked on my self-confidence through therapy and leadership coaching and started to reflect the vibrant and positive outlook I was feeling along the way. I made it a priority to learn about nutrition and cook food that would suit my medical needs. I researched health articles and became an active participant and decision maker in my journey, not a mere onlooker. Buying dry ice at Harris Teeter as a means of preventing hair loss could have been a tortuous experience, but I was determined to do everything I could to mitigate the impending side effects of my treatment regimen.
Before my breast cancer diagnosis, I was overtired, overstressed, and often derived my self-worth from the validation of others. But along my health journey, I looked at cancer from the lens that is TNBC as an opportunity to restart my life. It gave me permission to implement changes that has made me a better and happier person – someone who does not let other people or experiences decide what my life is or will be.
This was my TNBC lesson.
Bio: Christina Falck Armstrong is passionate about wellness and nutrition and works for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Outside of work, she enjoys catching concerts with her husband, walking in nature, and learning all she can about how our bodies are impacted by food, the environment, and our mental well-being.