LBBC would like to welcome our newest blogger Nikki Black. Nikki was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer 5 months ago at the age of 23.
Five months ago I was sitting on the examination table in the office of my primary physician, waiting as she printed out the order for the next day’s ultrasound. “You don’t seem very concerned about this,” she said. I smiled and shook my head, comfortable under the veil of invulnerability that comes with youth. “That’s good,” she added, “I’m not too concerned either.”
I left her office reassured that the lump I had found while showering was most likely nothing, that the ultrasound would confirm this, that student loans would remain my biggest concern for the foreseeable future. I was 23-years-old; I had no family history. There was, at that moment, no cause for concern.
Unfortunately, the next day brought ultrasounds which were “suspicious”, which led to the mammograms, labeled “troubling”, and finally a biopsy, which became defining. A week after that doctor’s visit, I looked up at a bright June sky and tried to comprehend that my life would never be the same. I had breast cancer.
This story may sound like a dramatic telling of a statistical anomaly, but young women are facing this reality every day. The feeling of your future being ripped out from in front of you, cast into a void where your dreams and current perception of self must be constantly restructured could be the basis of any quarter-life crisis, but there is a terror specific to the word “cancer” that settles deep into your stomach and clings there with a particularly icy grip. With no family history, who was I to look to for guidance? With the limited experience of my age group, how could I expect my friends to understand? To help me cope?
Like all journeys, mine began with a small step- a step into the kitchen to prepare my drug of choice, jasmine green tea. I called family and friends, collapsed into my brother’s arms for a good cry, and then, like any good millennial, commenced The Googling. The Googling, however, seemed to further isolate and scare me. It felt like everywhere I clicked I found somebody telling me to make sure not to let my man see me drain the tubes after surgery, because he’d find that disgusting. I read story after story of negative body image, of self doubt and loathing as side effects of cancer, and it terrified me.
As a stand up comedian, I decided to start working through my issues on stage and found that when I was able to laugh about my fears, I started to gain more courage. I am here to tell young women there is more than one way to go through this experience, and it does not have to be filled with negativity. I’m not done my journey myself and I’m making it a point to learn as much as I can as I go along, but I want to let you know that I plan on blogging for Living Beyond Breast Cancer for a while and I hope to provide a place of positivity for young women, as well as a sounding board for our issues, which are so often different from those of an older woman with the same diagnosis.
The end of a post seems like an awkward place for introductions, but as I said, we’re just getting started. So: Hi! I’m Nikki, a 23-year-old stand up comedian currently undergoing chemotherapy for Stage 1 breast cancer. I can’t wait to speak with you again soon.