This Breast Cancer community is like being put on a team you didn't ask to be on. It’s that class you didn’t want to take. AP Breast Cancer is the class I’m talking about. How in the hell am I supposed to pass this shit? I’m not interested in the topic whatsoever. But I have to take it to “graduate.” I don’t know these people. I don't know how I’m going to mesh with these women. All you know about this class is that you have to be courageous, and ready to fight and if you can do it together you might just pass the class.
I am an only child. Since I can remember I've been making friends on every playground, in every classroom, dorm room and job that I’ve ever had. So, now would be no different. I didn’t know if I was going to find breasties or be besties with the nurses treating me but I knew that in order to get through breast cancer I was going to have to build my breast cancer community. I didn't know if it would be 2 people or 2 dozen, but I was determined to find women who Iooked like me, were around my same age and had the same ferocious tenacity to kick this shits ASS.
Boy, did I find them! Thank you, God! Let me give you a rundown of my classmates turned Breasties.
Shonni and Jasmine were my very first classmates. I was actually able to walk through my journey with the two of them. We are now on the “other side” and are supporting other women through their journeys. We are starting to become one big gang, gang.
Let’s start with Shonni P. She is magical. She was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer and the day before her scheduled double mastectomy she found out she was pregnant. YES, PREGNANT. She birthed her beautiful baby girl, Zoe, squeezed in a dope photoshoot and started her fight to exterminate the beast that is breast cancer from her body.
Shonni let me slide in her DM’s my very first chemo session and didn’t shun me or call me a weirdo. In fact, she embraced me with so much love and has managed to hold me tight ever since. She is the group's beloved mama bear. The woman is filled with so much wisdom and great advice that I’ve asked her to be my life coach!
She truly has a way with words. So much so that she brings me to tears on many occasions because she is so damn intuitive. She knows exactly what to say when I'm down. Life after cancer is harder than I thought it would be and that girl has lifted me up each and every time. Shonni encourages me, prays for me and with me, and constantly makes me laugh.
I think we go together now.
The toughest leg of my breast cancer journey was Chemo. That bitch is a BEAST. I started off round 1 with Shonni. Somewhere along the way she was introduced to Jasmine. We were all just stair-steps apart on our journey. When Shonni asked if she could bring Jasmine into the tribe, I was reluctant for .5 seconds because making friends after college can be hard ya’ll. But one thing that I would soon discover is that the more women I had on my team the easier it would be to make it through this class.
Jasmine - My little Blasian sensation. She was diagnosed at Stage 1A and her, Shonni and I were Her2+. Back away estrogen!
We met up for the first time for National Margarita Day. Because, have you met me? We live about 20 minutes apart and decided to meet at a restaurant right between the two of us. I was nervous. Not sure why. We sat across from each other like two girls meeting for the first time in the school cafeteria. Was I going to want to make her a friendship bracelet? Would I want to invite her to my birthday party? We talked and sipped our frozen swirl Margaritas. “Well at least she drinks”, I thought. I ordered a steak quesadilla and she ordered a bowl of chicken tortilla soup. I would soon see that she was fronting BIG TIME. She didn’t divulge much of anything at first. She was married to her high school sweetheart, a mother of two, she does pharmaceutical sales for a living and she is fighting this Bitch called breast cancer just like I am. That was about all I could get out of her the first few months of knowing her. Hell, probably the first year. Lol Homegirl wasn’t (and still is not) on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or even Gchat. I thought, WHAT IN THE HELL? But what I love about that is that she doesn’t need social media to make her presence felt in the lives of the people who matter most.
Through our journey together she has been such an inspiration. Hell week? A week at home? Psssh! This Wonder Woman was mom’in, wife’in and slanging these drugs daily. The pharmaceutical sales, guys.
Shonni, Jas and I remained tight during our chemo grind and Jas and Shonni’s, radiation hustle. It is amazing how we each bring something special to our group. Jasmine is HILARIOUS, sassy, loves wine as much as I do, and has the appetite of an entire football team. No lie! Lol She sprinkles bits of magic in our lives with her exuberance and giggly personality. This woman gets all the friendship bracelets, every invite to every birthday I will ever have and I will forever share my favorite snacks with her because she deserves all of it.
Shonni, Jasmine and I passed our class and although AP Breast Cancer was the hardest class we’ve ever had to take, but worked together as a team to pass that shit. And we didn’t just pass it, we ACED it! We have now added additional women to the class. We have been there to share our experiences, offer advice, be a listening ear and of course, bring the laughs.
Let me introduce you to our newest, Breasties.
Cotilya - Another magical connection via Instagram. What a blessing! She is one big, sweet, wacky woman! One day, she commented on one of my photos “You’re my friend in my head!” Well, why didn’t ya just say so?! Let’s be friends! I found out that she was just beginning her journey. She hadn’t even started chemo yet. I immediately knew what I had to do. I connected her with my Breast Cancer Alumna and we have been connected ever since!
Cotilya is one big ray of sunshine. She is vibrant, quirky and sweet as can be. We have shared our experiences with her and hopefully given her enough encouragement to maneuver through this shitty situation like a badass. Love you to life!
She starts her very first round of chemo today! The breasties and I know she is going to kick ass!
Shawni H - One day about a month ago, I received a message from a man in my Y&B DM’s. I side-eyed it immediately. But after actually reading the message, I read that he was a loving husband and father, whose wife had been recently diagnosed with Stage 0 Breast cancer. There was so much love and thoughtfulness written in that message that I was almost brought to tears.
His message went on to say that his wife didn’t know how to convey her feelings but that if he read, The Young and the Breastless, it would paint a better picture of what she had going on inside. He read every entry and was able to finally understand how his wife was feeling. He asked if he could connect the two of us so that we could be, Breasties.
I told him, “ABSOLUTELY” and gave him my phone number to give to his wife.
In just a few short weeks I have gotten to know her. I honestly never thought she would call. But she did and after just one phone call I knew we’d be aces. That first conversation flowed so easily. We laughed and talked and she explained her diagnosis and her hesitation about which surgery to have and we talked through it. Now, we talk every single day, multiple times a day, via phone and video chat. She is a down to earth, funny, smart, boss lady who has successfully run her own business and now household. I’ve connected her with Jasmine and Shonni P and we all talk every day, all damn day. Talk about, Breasties!
She is the only Breastie in the gang that doesn’t reside in Maryland. Her current home is Pittsburgh.
Shawni has an upcoming surgery next week. This is one of the parts of the class that sucks the most. But she is going to ace this test. We all know it.
The power of social media is amazing! It leaves me in awe sometimes. It allows people to connect in ways that will leave you truly grateful! Instagram continues to lead us to other beautiful women of color even after our fight. In August of 2018, I started The Young and the Breastless, as a way to share my experience through breast cancer and hopefully inspire other women to fight with vigor, faith, and a little humor too. The experience can be sucky but with the right classmates and a little laughter along the way, it makes things so much easier.
Much love to all my Breasties! Wouldn’t have wanted to take this class with anyone else!