On my 30th birthday, we welcomed a new exciting decade, anticipating my burgeoning career, starting a family, and dreaming of the home we would one day purchase..six months later, I was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer.
My husband, my family, and I were shocked by the diagnosis as there is no family history of cancer, but we hit the ground running. After consulting a fertility specialist, and determining the risk of holding off treatment to harvest and freeze embryos was too great, I underwent treatment at the Disney Family Cancer Center in Los Angeles. At the time, I worked in development for Walt Disney Motion Pictures after earning my MFA at USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program in 2009. My office was located across the street from my cancer center. After a year of treatment: chemotherapy, radiation, and mastectomy surgery, we celebrated my cancer-free status and looked forward to being able to getting back to “normal” and starting our family after one more year of hormone therapy.
In February 2013, while in New Jersey visiting my family, intense headaches led to an MRI showing a brain tumor and I was rushed to NYU Langone for brain surgery, followed by partial brain radiation. It was successful, but, now with Stage 4 cancer, my life would never be the same. Everything that I thought was ahead of me was at risk. It was no longer possible to have a child the traditional way and my stressful career no longer seemed healthy. Confused, I left the career I’d spent years building and moved back to New Jersey to be closer to my family and started working for my family’s real estate business.
My hopes of egg harvesting were once again dashed after a brain MRI discovered a small recurrence. I had gamma knife surgery and thankfully, have been stable for almost 2 years. In 2012, I became very active in the breast cancer advocacy community. Last year I formed a non-profit, to fund a documentary about our journey to start our family through egg donation and surrogacy to help others dealing with cancer and infertility. With the help of an egg donor we created two embryos, the first miscarried and we are anxiously awaiting the transfer of the second.
Now four years from initial diagnosis, at the age of 34, I’ve returned to Los Angeles where I reside with my husband, and our two mutts, Zelda and Link. We recently fulfilled our dream of home ownership and the pups have a small yard. Lifestyle and nutrition changes have been a big part of my healing process. One day I hope to bring home a child and finish our documentary. In spite of everything I have experienced over the past four years since initial diagnosis, I believe happiness comes from consciously creating our lives.