November 13, 2015, I had my follow up appointment to discuss my breast biopsy results. I felt a sense of panic. My mom and I were escorted into a small room and sat at a round table with the physician who had completed my breast biopsy and Registered Nurse with brochures and a large text book sitting neatly in front of her. It quickly felt like the room was closing in around me, like the trash compactor scene in Star Wars.
As a registered nurse and a history of working in women’s health, I didn’t mind the stacks of education I was given. After all, diving in to any form of information (other’s personal experiences, media and text..) always helps give me a sense of control in a situation that has me spinning out of control. Education is power. Reality and objective information brings me clarity.
But, after the seriousness of discussing that I did indeed have cancer, came the pink brochures and optimistic phrases. Don’t get me wrong. I am a positive person. Sometimes, I annoy myself at my innate nature to look at the potential and possibility in situations and in other’s. But, my mind and soul ached for something more than that now.
Four months later, the confusion and feelings of isolation continued for me in the days ahead. After a routine PET scan ordered at my initial visit with my oncologist, my diagnosis changed to Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. The breast cancer had spread to my liver. At an attempt to gain some sense of self control over my emotions, I began to piece together part of what was making me so confused, angry and overwhelmed (besides the news of cancer.) None of the educational information I was given gave any scenarios or guidance if the cancer would spread elsewhere. I picked up the large text book-like resource that I was given upon my initial diagnosis of breast cancer. “The Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook.” The cover with its delicate flowers and pink pretty fonts. I turned to the book”s description: “Covers all aspects of breast cancer- from diagnosis to recovery.” Recovery. Something us “met-sters” never fully see. Where was my chapter?
I used my feelings of anger and sense of isolation by diving into the internet, social media and medical journal articles to uncover something or someone that had or has felt what I was experiencing. And, there it was. My angel: Holley Kitchen. Another young woman with metastatic breast cancer speaking out. Speaking truth. Shifting perspectives of how society typically views breast cancer. I finally felt understood. Raw truth and facts had set my unsettled soul free.
Holley’s story became public when she shared a video on YouTube in an effort to raise awareness of MBC, and it went viral online with over 51 million views. Her story subsequently was featured by Good Morning America, People, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Women’s Health, among others.
“Metastatic Cancer…the REAL deal”
Please take a minute to click the link below and watch her video…
Sadly, Holley Kitchen passed away from metastatic breast cancer on January 12, 2016, at the age of 42. She was my light of support and inspiration, after my diagnosis. She was a catalyst for change by speaking her truth and touched the lives of so many. I know she did mine.