By: Jessica Deumig
Throughout my career in Advertising, Sales and Marketing, ‘managing expectations’ has always been one of the top required skills. Under-promise and over-deliver. And that’s all well and good in the professional sense, but how do you manage your own expectations? Especially when faced with something completely out of your control and unexpected…
When I was diagnosed with stage 2A, triple negative, metaplastic breast cancer at the ripe ol’ age of 32, ‘unexpected’ was an understatement. I had no family history, no genetic mutations and no explanation. I was building my career and I had no time or patience to deal with the diagnosis. I also had no choice. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with partial reconstruction, fertility preservation, eight rounds of chemo and ultimately silicon reconstruction. It was seven months, diagnosis to done. Seven months of my life that I will never get back, but that changed the rest of my life as I knew it.
I was single and sans kids when I was diagnosed. I had no pets, no plants and a fully stocked wine rack. I was living solo in South Miami and was mid-job change when I received the bad news. Cancer doesn’t happen to young people, I thought. What the heck is going on? How do you handle news of this magnitude and the treatment plan to follow? How do you manage your own expectations and figure out a way to fight through? Honestly, as a wise sneaker maker once said, you “Just Do It.”
There’s nothing in this world that can prepare you for your own diagnosis. No matter how many people you’ve seen go through it, or how many times you’ve seen it on TV; when it’s you, it’s different. And I’ll tell you why: You have complete control over how you choose to deal with it.
When I met with the surgeon to discuss the treatment plan and get more specifics about my cancer, her words almost broke me. I was still in disbelief – this couldn’t be real – and the tears were on the verge of falling when my fight or flight instinct kicked in.
In a matter of seconds, much like a dream, I saw the two roads I could take in terms of dealing with this new challenge. I could choose ‘flight,’ get emotional, wallow, wonder “Why me?” and surrender to months of feeling like shit and sulking on the couch for the next year; or, I could choose to fight, to get pissed off, let my adrenaline do its thing and promise myself to stay as strong and fierce as possible.
In those moments, I knew that whichever choice I made would somewhat define the next year of my life. I knew that I was much better at fighting than I was at being a victim and relinquishing control of my days. I blinked the excess water from my eyes, raised my head out of my hands, looked her straight in the eye, and said, “I don’t have time for this shit. What’s the plan?”
Your cancer diagnosis is not something you chose or that chose you as some sort of consequence. It’s simply something that happened to you – completely out of your control. Do not let it be an excuse to live anything less than an amazing, beautiful, life full of love, happiness and excitement! Sure, there will be tough days. Think back to when you first got your ears pierced. Do you remember how every day when you had to clean them, it felt like they would never heal, and you’d have to do this for the rest of your life…and you asked yourself, “Is this even worth it?” Remember those killer drop earrings you wore to that wedding that one time? Exactly.
Treatment will suck at times. It will also be very enlightening and empowering at others. Sun Tsu said, in his book, The Art of War, that victorious warriors win first and then go into war. Defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. Push yourself to fight and promise yourself to fight as hard as you can. Each day may be very different from the last, and sometimes, you might feel as though you’ve lost the day (the battle). Go to sleep, wake up and fight again to win the next one. In the end, you’ll win the war – either through a cure, or in your heart. Win first in your mind and then go toe to toe (or boob to boob as it were) with your cancer.
You are so much stronger than you’ve been told to think you are. Use it and just do it!
Once I was officially cured in February of 2020 (at least one good thing happened this year!), I wrote a book called WARRIOR to share my story and thoughts about healing and coping to help women and their supporters avoid fear of the unknown, which in my opinion is one of the more debilitating parts of a cancer diagnosis. Essentially, it’s the guidebook I wish I had when I was first diagnosed. WARRIOR is raw, real, uncensored and something I believe all breast cancer patients should read.
Also, fuck cancer.
Book link (autographed) is here: https://www.facebook.com/commerce/products/4411719608868525
Order Your Copy Today