My dear sweet Lola: I have the dreaded C-word

pink warriorA couple of months ago we introduced Tiffany Mannino who is sharing with us personal journal entries written in letter format penned to her unborn daughter while traveling through her breast cancer journey. In her collection of letters Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress she reflects on her five year journey with letting go of the past, facing fears, learning to love, finding happiness in the moment, and realizing that she is exactly where she is supposed to be in life. Here is her first entry of 2010 where she takes a moment to look back on the highs and lows of the previous 10 years which culminated with her hearing the words “You have breast cancer” at the age of 36… 

January 3, 2010

Dear Lola,

Happy New Year, baby! I can’t believe that it is the beginning of a new decade already. I can clearly remember when the new millennium hit and how awe-inspiring that was. I can’t believe what changes the last decade has brought to my life. It was the best of times and the worst.

In summary, I married my teenage love, put my heart and soul into my teaching career, had a pulmonary embolism, watched someone I love battle addiction, divorced, traveled the world, bought a new house, watched two grandparents die, fell in love again and was engaged, broke off the engagement, was selected to film a design show pilot for HGTV, started my own interior design business, and ended the decade by being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Yep. The last one is a shocker. On December 16th, 2009, I received the call that no one ever wants to hear, “Your lump is cancer. You have Cancer.”  What??  I’m young, healthy and fit. I don’t feel sick. How is this possible? This isn’t supposed to happen to young people. Cancer kills people, and I don’t want to die. I have plans. I have plans to be a mother. This simply cannot be true. Breast cancer happens to older women who are my grandmother’s age, not to young women under 40! Why me? Haven’t I had more than my share lately?

My dear sweet Lola, these were all of the questions that continuously looped through my brain during the days that followed my diagnosis. I have wanted to write to you before now, but couldn’t seem to put into words exactly what I wanted to say to you. Plus I haven’t wanted to actually put in writing that I have the dreaded C-word. Cancer. Not to mention, I’ve been incredibly busy. I’m learning that having cancer is a full time job and can only describe this journey as insane. My emotions change daily, well actually, hourly. I go from being a super-positive pink warrior one day to a scared little girl who fears losing her entire identity the next. I have been doing a lot of reading lately and have learned that cancer for young women particularly for those who don’t have children yet, but want them, can bring on a whole special set of emotions and complications. I have now learned that treatment for cancer often brings on menopause, so the likelihood of having children drops dramatically. Of course, this has been the number one desire of my heart for years, so when I am not thinking that I’m dying, I’m thinking about this.

I have so other many things I want to share with you but will save them for another day. I imagine this diary will begin to take on a new direction and a life of its own. So, I hope you are ready to share this new journey with me. For it seems like the day that I will actually meet you is getting farther and farther away. But baby, I’m not giving up on you yet. You have been a dream in my heart for so long now; I know that dream will eventually come true.

Lola, you give me a reason to fight, a reason to hope, and a reason to believe that I will conquer this disease.

Love always,

Your mama


Tiffany Mannino is an elementary school teacher, world traveler, Zumba freak, and young breast cancer survivor who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She has found that expressing her emotions through writing and painting has helped her deal with facing cancer at a young age and has brought her profound healing.  Several of her writing pieces have been featured in books including the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series. 

Stay tuned for more excerpts from Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress!

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