From the moment I was first diagnosed, I was thrown in the common metaphor of being “at battle” with cancer by those around me placing their own labels on my experience. This has never sat well for me and often left me feeling isolated because I felt the complete opposite of how people described my “heroism” and “strength”. There was not an ounce of courage or warrior woman inside of me when I was given those labels. I was/am merely living with an illness as millions of other people do with other conditions and circumstances. I squirm at the suggestion that just living with my condition somehow equates me more to a fighter and warrior than anyone else.
I was originally diagnosed in October 2013 with grade 2 Astrocytoma. I was 27 years old and in my first semester of graduate school at Yale, studying Health Policy. I was experiencing problematic symptoms a few weeks before classes began. After an MRI found a lesion in my right frontal lobe, I underwent a craniotomy in mid-October and withdrew from classes for the semester. A few days after my surgery, I received that life changing call informing me of my diagnosis.
After I was diagnosed with brain cancer, I developed a desire to have really tough conversations about death and dying with my family so that I could share my thoughts with them and feel less alone on this journey that’s been full of uncertainty. At first, this was quite challenging for me and my family, but one of the things that has really helped us to be able to have these tough conversations was my realization that this topic was not something unique and exclusive to me and people like me, but rather a conversation we all should be having regardless of age, health, and condition.