This entry was written by RitaMarie Pinto. At age 25, RitaMarie was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she expressed that the diagnosis made her miserably angry, she admits that a lot of the anger was a reflection of her believing that she didn’t deserve to be a 25-year-old woman – with breast cancer.
Age is just a number…
I had always participated in breast cancer awareness fundraisers that would benefit both patients and survivors. I had worked with breast cancer patients in the past, and I’d watched them overcome their breast cancer diagnosis. I cried with them. I also smiled when I saw that they were having a good day. Most of these women were over 30. Never in a million years did I think I’d be one of them at 25.
Breast cancer is an ugly, disgusting monster that comes like a thief in the night. It attacks us when we least expect it and preys on our weaknesses. It takes over our bodies and minds and commands us to fight a battle that we may have never thought about fighting. It comes smack-dab in the middle of a perfect (or at least what seemed perfect at the time) life. The issues you had before breast cancer seem insignificant compared to what you now have to endure to come out on the other side. Nothing else matters but surviving.
At 25 years old, breast cancer came into my life and completely turned it upside down. I was diagnosed on November 17, 2010. Instead of getting in the holiday spirit and enjoying the most wonderful time of the year with my family and friends, I was getting PET CTs, MRIs, and mammograms, and wondering if I would be around this time next year to ever enjoy a holiday again. In the midst of all this chaos, my grandmother, with whom I was extremely close, passed away a week before Christmas of a massive stroke. A lot for a 25-year-old to handle, right? I thought the same thing at the time.
I became very angry. Why me? What did I do wrong in my short 25 years of life to deserve this? I am so young. My life is just getting started. How could this possibly happen to me? Cancer is for old people, not for me! It was devastating for me to run my hands through my long, dark, shiny hair after my first round of chemo and have it come out in clumps. As my treatments increased in number, my hair decreased and completely fell out… all over my body. While my girlfriends were getting weekly manicures, I was watching my nails weaken and develop ridges. A few months ago I used to sit in front of the mirror for 45 minutes before going out, applying make-up to make myself feel beautiful; now I was spending 45 minutes to make myself simply look normal, creating eyebrows and applying bronzer to my pale skin.
I was 25 and living the life of a cancer patient.
As time went on, I began to realize that I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t being punished. I believe everything happens for a reason and that this is all part of a greater plan that God has for me. I began to say to myself, “Why not me? What makes me so special that I should be untouched by something that I knew I COULD handle and beat?” As I connected with more and more women affected by breast cancer, I met and read about young moms, girls in my age group starting out their careers and lives just as I was doing.
There were grandmothers enjoying their retirements, aunt, sisters, best friends, women of all ages whose lives were interrupted by breast cancer. I realized that these women had just as much at stake as I did, despite how old they were. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter at what age you are diagnosed; breast cancer takes a toll of epic proportions on your life whether you’re 25 or 105.
Breast cancer knows no boundaries and age is NO exception. When you’re affected, you’re affected, PERIOD. Your life changes. It is then up to you to decide if you’re going to let this ruin you or take this experience and let it make you into the strong, amazing, powerful woman you were meant to be. I choose the latter.
Did a lot of your frustration, after your breast cancer diagnosis, have to do with you feeling undeserving of the disease because of your age? We want to hear from you! Comment here or on our Facebook page.